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Blog, PHA

How to Protect Your Ship from Process Safety Hazards

In Star Trek, the ship is protected by a force field called a “shield”.  When under attack, the tactical officer will call out the status of the shield’s integrity, e.g. “shields at 70%, Captain.”  When shields are down to 10%, you know that a breach is imminent unless they retreat or find a way to defeat their attacker.

In a refinery or chemical plant, there is no one calling out the integrity of our protection systems and procedures every few minutes.

But OSHA has specified three specific process safety elements that are critical to Protect Against the Hazards (one of the Five PSM Mindets™) – Pre-Startup Safety Reviews, Mechanical Integrity, and Hot Work Permits.

Taking Action to Prevent Disaster

Once we’ve identified the hazards, it’s time to do something about it. We’ve seen where danger may strike, so we go to the possible sources. We anticipate what could go wrong and prepare for it.

  • We put procedures in place to create consistency and avoid mistakes. But are the procedures being followed? 
  • We add alarms and limits to alert us to known unsafe conditions. Will the appropriate alarms overwhelm the operator in the event of an emergency? 
  • We install systems such as relief valves and automatic shutdowns to react as quickly as physically possible if a dangerous limit is exceeded. Are the safety relief devices and shutdown systems being maintained according to industry standards?  What about the mechanical integrity of the pipes, pumps, or vessels? 

In a process hazard analysis (PHA), safeguards and layers of protection are identified and counted on.  And in our industry, there is a great deal of focus on mechanical integrity and maintaining safety instrumented systems.

The Shield Doesn’t Replace the Crew

In a successful process safety culture, the success or failure of the facility is the responsibility of everyone together – like the crew on Star Trek.

If you are going to help ensure the shields are at maximum strength, here are a few places to start:

  • First, know your enemy – become familiar with the hazards that have been identified and communicated to you.
  • Get to know what the protection layers are for the areas you work in.
  • When there are safe work practices and procedures in place, follow them closely. When you know the “why” behind the procedure, you can be on the lookout for any gaps or concerns.

The safety of a star ship isn’t just dependent on its shield. It depends upon each crew member doing their part and working as a team.

The safety of a facility isn’t just based on the safeguards put in place, but upon each person inside the gate doing their part.

You are more than helping maintain the “shield” – YOU are an integral part of the shield preventing catastrophe so that we may all “live long and prosper”.

Read More from the Five PSM Mindsets™ Series:

This series is based on the concept of the Five PSM Mindsets™ – a unique way to apply OSHA’s 14 PSM elements to your PSM program. Watch this on-demand webinar from Sarah McDuffee for a better understanding of the Five PSM Mindsets™ and how adopting them can create a better process safety culture in your facility.
Sarah McDuffee
About the Author
Sarah McDuffee
Sarah McDuffee joined Provenance Consulting in 2015 as Training Program Coordinator, creating internal and external training courses for industry clients on various Process Safety Management topics. Her background includes 19 years of experience in the refining/chemical industry. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University.  Her 11 years with a major refining company included project design, process unit support and distillation consulting roles.

She completed her Masters in Adult Education and Training with Colorado State University in 2011 while working for Northern Oklahoma College as an engineering instructor for 5 years. During that time, Sarah also served as Program Director for the Process Technology program for four years, partnering with industry on curriculum, recruiting and placement.

Blog, Process Safety Management

How Telling Stories Creates Hazard Transparency

Most people enjoy a good mystery.

Writers like Agatha Christie are successful in bringing us into the intrigue by giving just enough clues for us to come up with our own hypothesis of “whodunit”, while withholding enough insight so that at the end, the master detective solves the case and uncovers the unexpected villain.

We are excited by the challenge of looking for clues, reading between the lines, searching for the truth.

For me as an engineer, that love of investigating a mystery contributes to the thrill of problem solving.

Dangers of “Whodunit” in Process Safety

When it comes to understanding process hazards in a facility, knowing the “whodunit” of process hazards goes beyond elementary entertainment.

OSHA designated the elements of Compliance Audits and Trade Secrets to make sure that everyone at the facility knows the whole story, not just a few clues.  Nothing is meant to be hidden from the employee, and no one wants a “surprise ending.”

These two elements also make up the fifth PSM Mindset™, Transparency.

Audits and sharing trade secrets allows everyone who needs it to see the real story of the process:  What are the risks, the protections, the gaps, and the strengths of the processes and procedures in place?

We Don’t Need Sherlocks – We Need Storytellers

As a mindset, it is also about each person on-site being willing to be transparent.

Are you willing to share your stories – what worked and, even more important, what hasn’t worked and why?

We all learn more from stories than from a list of facts.  We can put ourselves into the story, and our minds remember stories especially when the story invokes an emotion – This makes the memory more “sticky.”

If you have years of experience in the petrochemical industry, you have stories to share.  If you are new to the industry, there are lots of stories to hear, so be listening.

Sharing Experiences is Safer and Smarter

I have a vivid memory of a leak detected in the Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation Unit flare accumulation drum.

Typically the unit would be shut down so the pipe could be replaced.  But that would send all the hazardous materials in the unit right through the leaking pipe.

I remember meetings with operators, engineers, maintenance, mechanical integrity inspectors and others to come up with a plan to safely address the issue.

We came up with a solution and put a temporary Management of Change form in place, formally getting everyone to sign and stack hands on the plan.

The plan worked, the pipe was bypassed and replaced, and I was left with a lesson on the importance of all eyes looking at the potential solution.

I remember the arguments, the concerns, the checking and double checking that was involved.  In the end, it was a success.

The hazard was addressed because everyone was transparent about their ideas and concerns.

What Should We Share?

If you see something that doesn’t align with a procedure or standard, that is a story that needs to be shared.

Is a level gauge not reading accurately? Don’t dismiss it, share that information.

Is a procedure or policy cumbersome and difficult to navigate? The complexity may be necessary but on the other hand, a simpler approach may work instead.

These are also stories that need to be told.  Each story may be part of a bigger picture.

Remember, there is no Sherlock Holmes or master detective on staff, so we all must work as a team to ensure the hidden risks are brought to light and the hazards are exposed.

Read More from the Five PSM Mindsets™ Series:

This series is based on the concept of the Five PSM Mindsets™ – a unique way to apply OSHA’s 14 PSM elements to your PSM program. Watch this on-demand webinar from Sarah McDuffee for a better understanding of the Five PSM Mindsets™ and how adopting them can create a better process safety culture in your facility.
Sarah McDuffee
About the Author
Sarah McDuffee
Sarah McDuffee joined Provenance Consulting in 2015 as Training Program Coordinator, creating internal and external training courses for industry clients on various Process Safety Management topics. Her background includes 19 years of experience in the refining/chemical industry. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University.  Her 11 years with a major refining company included project design, process unit support and distillation consulting roles.

She completed her Masters in Adult Education and Training with Colorado State University in 2011 while working for Northern Oklahoma College as an engineering instructor for 5 years. During that time, Sarah also served as Program Director for the Process Technology program for four years, partnering with industry on curriculum, recruiting and placement.

Blog

Dylan Misslin – Engineers Week 2019 Spotlight

Dylan Misslin’s non-traditional education background gives him an appreciation for the services he provides to clients and has made him an asset for the business side of Provenance.

Provenance Account Director (Nuclear Engineer)

Meet Dylan

About Dylan

Quick Facts

Job Title: Account Director

Hometown: Pflugerville, TX

Degree (College/University): Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering (Texas A&M University)

Years with Provenance: 5 years

Years in the Industry: 5 years

Work Site: Freeport, TX

The Story

Engineer Spotlight

Second time was the charm for Dylan Misslin. After leaving college to pursue an opportunity in car sales, Dylan found himself faced with a choice about his future. He’d been out of school for ten years – could he really go back?

On a test drive, a gentleman encouraged him, “Dylan, you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to go back and finish your degree.” While this lit the fuse for his return to engineering, Dylan will admit it was not “easy”.

“I worked at least 45 hours a week and had two kids in the process of trying to get my nuclear engineering degree,” he explains. “I basically worked, studied, or went to school 7 am – midnight, six days a week for three years and spent all of Sunday with my family.”

Provenance Path

That determination to finish what he started is part of what makes Dylan such an excellent leader. He’s also extremely adaptable, which is how he ended up in the oil and gas industry instead of nuclear.

“The Fukushima, Japan, nuclear incident happened right after I was accepted back in school which put a damper on the demand for nuclear engineers. That’s how I ended up in the oil and gas industry and with Provenance. I’d say it’s worked out pretty well for me,” he reflects.

While plans changed, his resolve to obtain his degree never wavered. “I better appreciated what I was learning the second time around, and when I put my passion into it, it was doable,” he says.

Today, Dylan is one of the Provenance Account Directors. He is responsible for developing scopes of work, planning, staffing, execution, quality control and managing team members that work on a variety of PSM related projects for our clients. He’s also accountable for maintaining a positive relationship with the client, continuing to win work, and ensure projects won are profitable.

Managing Partner Patrick Nonhof adds,

“Dylan’s career has focused on client management and account growth. Dylan has been very successful in translating the problem-solving skills required for ‘traditional’ engineering into solving business problems.”

Leadership Spotlight

Recently, Dylan has focused on better understanding the nuances of how to develop and maintain programs that comply with regulation. He recently delivered a well-received webinar on Process Safety Management Compliance Audits focused how to build and guide your audit team to achieve success.

His humor and personality shine during the presentation as images of and references to movies and TV shows (especially “The A-Team”) pop up throughout, a true representation of his personality.

Professionally, his confidence and “comfort in his own skin” enable him to control the room as well as encourage others to feel comfortable and participate.

While it may have taken him a little longer than others, Dylan’s career in engineering has shown to be mutually beneficial for him and Provenance. His story proves that it is never too late to pursue your calling – and engineering is not just for the traditional student.

As far as landing outside of the nuclear industry, Dylan says, “Initially, I wanted to be a part of delivering clean nuclear energy to the world. Now I keep traditional energy safe.”

Provenance Engineer Spotlight Profiles

Engineers Week 2019

Blog

Jillian Hays – Engineers Week 2019 Spotlight

Diligence in engineering excellence and developing trust-based relationships helped Jillian Hays become a trusted relief systems subject matter expert at a major client’s technology research facility.

Provenance Consulting Project Lead (Chemical Engineer)

Meet Jillian

About Jillian

Quick Facts

Job Title: Project Lead

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Degree (College/University): Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering (The University of Texas at Austin)

Years with Provenance: 8 years

Years in the Industry: 8 years

Work Site: Bartlesville, OK

The Story

Engineer Spotlight

Houston, Texas, is known by many as the “Energy Capital of the World”. Its proximity to the industry means nearly everyone knows someone connected to oil and gas.

Jillian Hays grew up listening to stories from the plant around the dinner table. This served her well while she pursued her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

When it was time to decide on a career path, she reflects, “Knowing that an engineering degree can open up a wide range of opportunities made it an obvious field of pursuit for me.”

Provenance Path

Jillian joined the Provenance team in the relief systems group – one of the most rigorous and technically difficult areas of Process Safety. For the past several years, she has been based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, at a technology research facility for one of our major clients.

“I oversee the relief systems work for the PSM covered sections of the facility which specifically addresses the pilot plants. I work with the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS), process engineering, operations, and project groups to handle project work and ad hoc relief systems requests,” she explains.

This smaller facility is unique – it is not a production facility and so it comes with its own challenges. Some of those challenges include, “trying to apply codes and standards intended for production facilities to this type of facility (such as sizing, calculations, and methodologies), continually working on variances to fit the technology, interpreting application of codes – it’s been a big learning curve.”

There are some benefits to working at this unique site. Since the facility isn’t focused on meeting production goals, conducting shut downs are done more frequently and with less hesitation. Since the site is researching and piloting technology, there are more personnel with doctoral degrees which creates a different culture.

Another difference is in the projects themselves. “The client wants us involved in actual installation of PRDs, working with all parties involved,” Jillian states.

“At production facilities, that work is usually split between design and implementation. Here, we get to submit a recommendation and witness it installed in the field within a few weeks. Then we’re involved in updating the final documentation. We get the chance to resolve problems as we go and see it all the way through.”

Engineering and Project Management

As she’s settled into her role at this facility for the last few years, Jillian has found that her role is more about project management than simple engineering. She’s become a communications “clearinghouse” between Provenance and the client – she gathers information, addresses IT issues, keeps the engineers on task, and directs priorities.

“As Project Lead, I spend less time doing calculations and am involved earlier in the projects,” she says. “While overseeing a small team, I focus more on delegation and financial action items than just task completion. A Project Lead’s responsibilities focus on creating efficiencies between the project team and the client.”

Jillian has a unique ability to gain a clear understanding of the client’s needs. “We focus on determining how our clients like to work and craft our recommendations accordingly. Being onsite around the people making the decisions and hearing them share their opinions allows me to understand the different parties and different preferences involved. Developing those relationships with the client is crucial,” she explains.

Her supervisor and Relief Systems Line of Service Manager, Justin Phillips, agrees.

“Jillian is a careful, detail-oriented engineer who makes conscientious decisions in her work and approach, but is also personable, reasonable, adaptive, and focused on customer service. The organization depends on Jillian to manage her client’s needs and to lead the team of engineers, co-ops, and technicians that make her client’s visions become reality.”

Relationships Work

While general engineering stereotypes might lead you to believe there is one “type” of engineer, that’s just not the case. There’s a range of engineering personalities to work with, although most universities provide little guidance on navigating the relationship side of working in these facilities.

“I developed most of my relationship-building skills on the job by focusing on doing the best job for the client,” Jillian comments.

“The social aspect of my personality has helped in the role of contractor and created valuable relationships with clients. It’s important to develop those relationships before situations get difficult or you need to have important conversations.”

Jillian’s strive to provide her clients the utmost best possible service makes her a valuable and indispensable member of the Provenance team. By leveraging her technical acumen and drive to fully understand the needs of her client, she has earned the honored SME designation as well as the respect and trust of those she works with.

Provenance Engineer Spotlight Profiles

Engineers Week 2019

Blog

Matt Leos – Engineers Week 2019 Spotlight

Faced with a task outside his normal scope, Matt Leos proved his flexibility and creativity when he focused his engineering mindset on developing innovative software and data management solutions used by major oil and gas companies.

Provenance Consulting Developer and Special Projects Lead (Mechanical Engineer)

Meet Matt

About Matt

Quick Facts

Job Title: Developer and Special Projects Lead

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Degree (College/University): Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering (University of Texas at Austin)

Years with Provenance: 7 years

Years in the Industry: 8 years

Provenance Office: Austin, Texas

Project Sites: Borger, TX; Ponca, OK; Sweeny, TX; Enid, OK; Deer Park, TX

The Story

Engineer Spotlight

Part of being an engineer lies not only in what you do, but also how you do it.

In university classrooms, engineering students develop a specific mentality. Matt Leos describes his experience,

“Engineering school taught me how to problem solve. The ‘engineer’ mentality includes asking lots of questions, seeing the problem from different angles, figuring out the core problem, all while applying a tireless work ethic – you study, study, study.”

Read more