One of the most effective means of improving process safety management (PSM) performance on offshore and onshore processing facilities is to identify the plausible hazards, and then to either remove those hazards, or to engineer the system such that it is inherently safe. Unfortunately, the disciplines of safety and environmental engineering are not as objective or rigorous as other types of engineering because the identification of hazards, along with estimates as to their consequences and likelihoods, relies largely on experience and expert judgment. Moreover, other subjective factors - such as whether a release affects members of the public - come into play; yet such factors cannot be easily incorporated into an engineering or operations policy.

For example, an assessment of the risk to do with a potential fire requires judgment regarding:

  • The location of a leak;

  • Its size;

  • Its likelihood;

  • Its duration;

  • The effectiveness of operator response; and

  • The rigor with which local regulations are enforced.

The responses provided to each of the above factors will dramatically affect the nature of the risk analysis and the resulting recommendations. Yet each answer relies heavily on judgment and experience.

This paper demonstrates how a very large system of spreadsheets can be used to organize expert knowledge around the well-established categories of process safety management such as management of change, incident investigation and employee culture. Each spreadsheet contains multiple questions, each of which is scored from 0 (bad) to 4 (excellent). In this regard, the system goes beyond the traditional checklist audit approach to assessing PSM — it allows for judgment, not just simple "Yes/No" answers. Supplementing the questions are guidance statements written by the appropriate expert(s). The scores roll up to provide management with an objective assessment as to the status of their process safety management program. The system also identifies which specific management areas are functioning well, and which are not.

These results thus help managers improve safety and environmental results in an objective manner by moving away from hunches, un-substantiated opinions and also from quantitative assessments that are built on questionable failure rate data. The results also provide management with guidance as to where to invest resources in order to improve performance most effectively.

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