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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.

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How to Use Patterns to Identify Process Safety Hazards

A baby is constantly exploring new things and looking for familiar shapes, colors, and other patterns to help him or her understand the world around them.  They are constantly experiencing brand new objects, which their brains must fit into an ever-expanding repository of categories. Sometimes the categorization starts as “not a circle” until they create a new category of “it’s a square!”

One of the ways that we learn new things is to try to categorize a new idea or image with others that we already know.

Patterns in Process Safety

Patterns and trends – defining something by what it IS and ISN’T – help us identify hazards in the workplace.

And sometimes the way to recognize a hazard is by first categorizing it as “not safe.”

I’ve been told that one way to recognize counterfeit money is to be intimately familiar with real money.  Then any anomaly stands out and is identified as “not real.”

What if we approached process safety the same way?

What if we learn the procedures for our safe work practices so well that when something is different, it stands out as “not a circle?”

And once I recognize the deviation, I also need to know the reasoning behind the procedure well enough to understand possible consequences!

Ripple Effects of Deviations

Let’s take an example from the steps of Management of Change.  Most MOC procedures require a relief systems expert to review each process change. But consider if the change is a simple trim on a control valve which doesn’t seem connected to the relief valve downstream at all.

It might be tempting to skip the relief system review step, but in an emergency, that change would send more material to the relief valve than it can handle. In this case, failing to identify the risk due to a presumption of understanding could have serious consequences.

Owning Your Role in Identifying Hazards

As we said, the best way to identify deviations and hazards, is to be intimately familiar with the processes and procedures so that when something is “off”, you notice it.

You can’t notice when something isn’t right if you don’t know what it should be.

If there’s an item in a procedure that doesn’t make sense, find someone to explain it to you.  Bettering your understanding will increase your ownership of the procedure and ensure you don’t miss critical steps because you didn’t realize they were critical.

Looking for deviations is a common way for operating a process unit.

Consider safe operating limits.  Alarms go off when the process variable (temperature, pressure, flow) exceeds or falls below a certain safe range.

When you take the time to study the procedures and standards, it allows for an internal alarm to sound in your brain because something isn’t fitting the pattern. “Wait a minute, this P&ID doesn’t match what is in the field…” or “shouldn’t there be a plug on this bleeder?”

What Does “Safe” Looks Like?

At one company I worked for, we often asked the question “What does good look like?”

I challenge each of us as we go about our work to ask the question, “What does SAFE look like?”

When safe designs, procedures, and standards become the patterns you are most familiar with, you can quickly see the outliers and address the hazards.

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.

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Your Organization Is Talking, Is Anybody Listening?

Join this 60-minute sponsored webinar to focus on communicating the hazard—one of the Five PSM Mindsets™ and a theme which is threaded throughout all 14 of OSHA’s PSM elements. If your work groups are simply imparting information and not exchanging ideas, chances are you’re missing the mark on communication. Examine how to improve the way you and your team share critical information while improving your safety culture. Critique your current level and methods of communication and connection to other teams. Plus, find out how to generate meaningful pathways for sharing critical PSM information. Don’t miss this opportunity to move beyond simply following Key Performance Indicators, managing changes and reviewing findings from audits, PHA’s and incidents and start creating meaningful conversations and solutions.

Take a look at your agenda:

  • How the theme of “communication” is threaded throughout OSHA’s 14 PSM Elements
  • Contrast and compare various methods of sharing PSM information and ideas
  • How to differentiate between the needs of multiple audiences
  • Assessing your current level of communication

Learn more about our Training Services

Presenter

Scott Kindy

Scott Kindy is a Senior Process Safety Management (PSM) Consultant and Account Director at Provenance Consulting. He has ten (10) years of experience in PSM related project execution in the petrochemical industry. His expertise includes executing and managing projects related to various elements of PSM including Management of Change (MOC), Mechanical Integrity (MI), Process Safety Information (PSI), Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), and compliance audits.

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PSM Mindsets for Everyday Use [Webinar]

Do you and your employees have a PSM mindset? Learn more.

In this Provenance Consulting sponsored webinar, take a big picture look at PSM while gaining insight into ways to improve your PSM approach and engage employees in your efforts. You’ll consider how OSHA PSM is complicated, but the intent behind it is surprisingly simple and direct. Then, you’ll unpack the five PSM mindsets that encompass the heart of the PSM regulation. You’ll view the 14 elements through a case study and see how to connect the mindsets and elements to your work tasks. In addition, you’ll be reminded how important your role in PSM is and take away specific actions that will help you take your safety to the next level.

Take a look at your agenda:

  • Understanding the five PSM mindsets
  • What success looks like for each mindset and OSHA’s 14 PSM elements
  • Growing a process safety culture in your facility
  • Steps to individual and corporate improvement within each mindset

Learn more about our Training Services

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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.

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This webinar provides participants practical advice on how to get more out of the large investment in Relief Systems design for the benefit of their Process Hazard Analysis (PHA).
Read more
Data Management, PHA, Webinar
Can PHA be Big Data? How to Make PHA Data Work Smarter
Are you interested in learning how to create consistency in process hazard analysis (PHA) facilitation, reporting and overall data generation? Could you use strategies for developing a consistent PHA structure...
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