Improving process safety culture is one of the key benefits that can be realised through appropriate training or qualifications which gives employees the knowledge to be able to work to consistent, safe standards.
Process industries engage in some of the highest risk activities; if safety is neglected, the potential consequences to organisations, people and the environment can be catastrophic.
The oil and gas sector faces particular challenges. Both internationally and in the UK, high-profile cases have illustrated the risks involved.
For example, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in 11 fatalities, polluted 1,000 miles of coastline, killed 6,000 birds and cost an estimated $60 billion.
Within the UK, the Buncefield, Hemel Hempstead oil depot explosion in 2005 forced some 2,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Appropriately, it was two companies working in these areas that have been among the pioneer users of a new qualification created for businesses like theirs.
Seafox is a leading global offshore jack-up company, while Wales & West Utilities supplies gas to around 7.5 million homes and businesses.
Best practice approach through training will ensure safety culture remains embedded in a company
Both companies have been early adopters of the Certificate in Process Safety Management created by NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Health and Safety) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The qualification is the result of an intensive period of consultation with global organisations operating in oil and gas, chemicals, utilities and manufacturing industries.
Students can expect to significantly improve their understanding of process safety management, helping to reduce health and safety risks in workplaces worldwide.
Bart Roeloffs, corporate quality, health, safety and environment manager for Seafox, one of the pilot participants in the course, comments: “With the introduction of the Offshore Safety Directive in Europe, it is important that all our staff work to the highest possible standards.”
He plans to use the qualification as part of the implementation of Seafox’s accident prevention policy.
Explains Roeloffs: “We will use this qualification to provide people with core process safety knowledge, not only from a QHSE perspective but for operational managers up to CEO level as well.”
Also a student on the course was Robert Williams, health, safety and environmental manager for Wales & West Utilities (pictured).
“I can see great potential for my colleagues to take the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management,” says Williams.
Following Deepwater and Buncefield, subsequent reports on both cases emphasised the need for more importance to be placed on the development of a safety culture.
The final report on the investigation of the Macondo well blowout by the Deepwater Horizon study group, criticised the alleged lack of a “functional” safety culture and claimed that BP’s corporate culture at the time was “embedded in risk-taking and cost-cutting”.
In its report on Buncefield, the HSE’s Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) strategic forum stated that “process safety did not get the attention, resources or priority that it required”.
While the likes of oil and gas benefit from an influx of personnel from other sectors in response to market demand, the use of a common, best practice approach through training will ensure safety culture remains embedded in a company, explains Williams.
“It will be good for people moving to the industry from different backgrounds and nothing comes near to the standard NEBOSH sets.”