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Cheddar or Swiss? How strong are your barriers?

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Abstract

This article describes a company's experience with process safety metrics and describes systematic methods to improve safety performance. As a result of a major accident, an internal investigation identified that although a site may have numerous measures for tracking operational and safety performance, these measures may not focus on leading indicators that could provide early warning of potential major incidents.

To systematically reduce incidents, especially, low probability high consequence process safety events, it is necessary to focus on prevention and specifically the strength of the barriers. The approach described in this article, therefore, aims to create a combination of Process Safety Performance Indicators that lead to stronger more robust barriers.

While industrial history tells us that such high consequence events are infrequent, this significant process safety risk is always present in production operations, and thus needs to be continuously assessed and reduced through systematic safety management. Within one company, this recognition has resulted in a substantial strengthening of process safety risk management through a more comprehensive system of controls embedded within its new Operating Management System, which is being implemented at the site level across all of its operations globally.

This article explores the ongoing methodology and approach being used to select a limited but crucial set of Process Safety Performance Indicators to enable effective measurement and the appropriate management of process safety performance. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog, 2009

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