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Hazards Australasia: There is no room for complacency

“There is no room for complacency” or “get worried when you receive ‘0’ LTI reports” was the catchcry of IChemE’s inaugural Hazards Australasia process safety conference held recently in Perth.

More than 130 delegates heard from a range of speakers who shared lessons learned from the aviation, defence, shipping, oil and gas, water, legal, regulatory and risk management consultancy sectors.

Minister for mines and petroleum; housing, Bill Marmion opened the conference warning that new lessons can always be learnt: “Government, industry and regulators need to work together to improve outcomes…Safety goes beyond personal protection equipment and engineering, with attitude and behaviours going a long way to improve safety.”

Conference partner Vanguard Solutions' managing director Brendon Fitzgerald reminded delegates how the rapid expansion of the chemical industry after World War II heralded a new era of more complex chemical plants and an increase in incidents.

“Understanding the process that was causing these hazards has led towards inherently safer design. However, we are still having extreme events, but what are we doing to understand them? Recognising the company breaker (when a truly catastrophic event occurs) allows you to check to prevent it.”

Woodside chief operations officer, Vince Santostefano discussed the organisation's safety culture framework distinguishing the obligation of everyone from workers to management: “Leaders set the standards, but we can’t have a one size fits all approach – they have to be tailored for the audience. Different learning environments need to be used, with hands on learning being just as important as the classroom model.

“We also need to rethink how we provide the workforce with access to technical and safety information, which can be an issue if it is limited to PC base, causing time being lost for those with limited access. We need workplaces to make it easier to do the right thing and written in a manner that is clear.”

Kiel Centre course director and human factors specialist  Ronny Lardner used his presentation to highlight how organisations should place greater emphasis on the practical application of knowledge at shift handover: “Look at what was an effective shift handover with a human factor approach – for example designing forms that capture the right information, similar to how it is done in nursing. What is it we need to communicate in a shift handover?”

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s (NOPSEMA) general manager, investigation and strategic services Jeremy Dunster highlighted the organisation's regulatory approach through assessment of safety cases, auditing, inspections, investigations and prosecution, with a focus on securing compliance.

Dunster shared some lessons for industry that included visibility of control measures for major accident events (MAE) controls, well defined SMART performance standards, facilities personnel knowledge and an understanding about performance standards.

Day two of the conference saw Norton Rose Fulbright partner and head of occupational health, safety and security (Asia Pacific) Michael Tooma first on the podium. Tooma discussed  process safety from a legal prospective, stressing the need to lay the foundation for good safety culture in an organisation using due diligence, safety leadership and practical tips as its cornerstone: “We need to create an environment of trust and where honest mistakes are accepted as being human, however people need to be accountable in terms of their responsibilities.”

Tooma also proposed the characteristics of a good safety leader and the concept of  “fanatic discipline”; meaning a leader who demonstrates consistency of values over a long period of time: “This initiates predicable decision making where the workforce would know what this leader would say over a particular issue, thereby creating a flexible culture were you trust people who are armed with the right training, to make decisions at the coal face and fostering a culture that delivers on outcomes.”

“Leaders innovate to find solutions that are different from someone else. Innovation requires validation and in the words of Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting difference results.” Mindful leadership or productive paranoia, ie having chronic unease and an inquiring mind or being worried when presented with ‘0’ LTI, are all attributes of a leader who has a “passion for safety.”

Tooma also admonished that we need to celebrate the things we do well and not be all about the negative and accountability: “Celebrate safety innovation and prefer first principle approach over pre-worked solutions. A safety record is something to be cherished – take the road less travelled.”

Keynote speaker and North American aviation veteran, Keith Martinsen, talked about how safety has evolved from the days after WWII when pilots trained for wartime went on to work for airlines.  The problem with this transition was that these pilots were often single minded and had a macho attitude that became a problem in aviation.

“A lot of large accidents were a result of human error as opposed to mechanics. But fortunately behaviours have changed dramatically since then with the adoption of human factors training and a culture of working together being a significant contributor to what is now one of the safest forms of travel today.”

“Instead of just technical training which had been the earlier training model, pilots now have to undergo a study in human factors and good communication skills in order to pass their crew response management (CRM) test and are not allowed in the cockpit until this had been achieved.

“Standard procedures and CRM got aviation where it is today and proper adherence to procedures will standardise good communication and provide early detector of errors.

“Error is part of the human condition, but managing error can be mitigated through good leadership and conflict resolution, by trapping information through inquiry, assertion and advocacy and avoiding future incidents through preparation, planning and vigilance. Also, a confidential reporting system develops trust and shows a corporate commitment that is observable from junior staff to the most senior.”

Martinsen also reported that a key factor to improved aviation safety has been through the sharing of lessons learned with all airline business and aviation industries.

IChemE president and chair of Great Britain Health and Safety Executive, Judith Hackitt CBE, closed the event via video link reminding delegates that while some hazards are easy to spot, identifying some of the real process safety concerns requires knowledge and understanding of the process, of analytical techniques and mythologies and of human behaviour: “It means knowing the right questions to ask and not just having an observant pair of eyes.”

Hackitt says that the causes of complacency must be properly understood at every level in the organisation – not just among a few dedicated process safety professionals.

“New systems, new procedures will only work for the long term if they are properly engineered, well communicated, understood by everyone, properly maintained and monitored by senior management.

Hackitt emphasised the role of the new IChemE Safety Centre, in getting senior managers to consider process safety as an investment in production assurance and business survival.

“Collaboration and information sharing on process safety will replace unhelpful turf protection. Corporate lawyers must also be challenged to help us communicate and share and not stand in the way of the process.

“Process safety knowledge and competence will be recognised as fundamental to anyone who takes on a position of responsibility within the major hazards industries.”

The inaugural Hazards Australasia process safety conference follows on from the success of the IChemE Hazards conference series in the UK and Malaysia. The event provided a forum for international and local experts and safety professionals to discuss the latest developments, best practice and lessons learned from the chemical and process industries.

The second Hazards Australasia conference will take place in Q2 2015.

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