What are the process safety goals at your company?
You might cite in your answer a lagging process safety performance indicator (PSPI), such as “x process safety incidents and high potential near misses per year,” where x will usually be zero or, in some cases, a number that is lower than your company’s own historic performance. Essentially, the goal is either perfection or, at the very least, improvement.
Although useful, lagging PSPIs can be a fairly limited way of measuring performance. Perhaps you could also answer the question in terms of a number of leading PSPIs, such as alarm rates, or the number of overdue critical inspection tasks. The associated targets for such leading indicators are commonly taken from a relevant industry standard (for example, EEMUA 191 – Alarm Systems for alarm rates) or may otherwise be a value that is better than historic performance, to drive a focus on continual improvement.
Assessing process safety management through leading and lagging PSPIs has undoubtedly played a key role in helping to prevent major process safety incidents over the years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
The question that many energy companies have been asking themselves recently is: “As data becomes more readily available, is there another lens through which we can assess our own performance?” As a result, an increasing number are turning to “risk quality benchmarking.” This is the process of comparing one company’s performance to that of its peers, which provides an alternative to simply considering performance in absolute terms. The aim being to complement traditional PSPI stewardship, rather than replace it.
So perhaps a better question to ask is: “Is your company ‘best in class’ at process safety management?”
The benchmarking process
The first step in benchmarking is to establish a site’s risk quality against a defined set of criteria. A site should consider a wide range of different incident barriers — both preventative and mitigating — in order to give a thorough overview, and score each barrier, depending on how well developed it is.
Once a site’s performance is established, the next step is to decide on the most applicable peer group for comparison. Common considerations include:
- Comparison with global peers or within a local geographic region.
- Comparison with assets of any size or of a similar size only (for example, <100 KBD refineries or >400 MMSCFD gas processing plants).
- For a company with its own portfolio of assets, a peer group consisting of the different company assets may prove to be the most useful.
The next step is to complete the data analysis to establish how a site compares to its peers. If the benchmarking process is completed over subsequent years, then it is possible to identify how a site has improved (or regressed) over time. Benchmarking performance is often demonstrated visually using a box and whisker diagram, as shown in (Figure 1).