Using Data-Based Indicators to Improve Process Safety Performance

  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    March 27, 2017
  • Duration:
    30 minutes
  • PDHs:

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Using Data-based Indicators to Improve Process Safety Performance

Erin P. Collins and Paul J. Amico


Performance indicators (also referred to as performance metrics) have proven to be the key to successful performance-based management. They establish clear goals for objectively measuring achievement of program objectives without constraining the performer with prescriptive requirements, allowing the performer to take ownership of the approach to achieving those goals.

Even if a more prescriptive approach is taken for requirements, performance indicators (PIs) measure whether meeting those requirements is delivering the desired performance.  PI programs vary greatly in scope.  Initially used almost exclusively for measuring safety performance, they are now often used to measure all aspects of operational performance as part of continuous process improvement programs, such as Six Sigma.

The application of PIs to the safe operation of nuclear power production reactors was initiated in October 1997 by the American Society for Quality, leading to a document issued in 1999 that recommended “the implementation…of selected basic leading PIs… in three cross-cutting issues [of] problem identification and resolution, safety conscious(ness in the) work environment, and human performance.”  Consistent with the ASQ effort, initial guidance for the Performance Indicator program used by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) production reactors at Hanford and Savannah River, was issued in 1992.  This program has since been developed further by the Training Resources and Data Exchange (TRADE) special interest group for both the DOE and the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs into a handbook of techniques and tools for performance measurement. This effort was extended still further into a performance metrics manual developed by Westinghouse Savannah River Company for the Energy Facility Contractors Group (EFCOG), which includes a data dictionary with suggested and required performance metrics for submittal to DOE Headquarters. 

Color thresholds are often used to characterize performance – such as green, white, yellow, red by the nuclear industry– and signify increasing degradation of safety.   For example, the DOE performance reporting process utilizes the following standard colors and definitions:

Blue: “Outstanding” - Performance which significantly exceeds expectations.

Green: “Good” - Performance which meets or exceeds expectations. Generally requires only normal management attention to maintain performance.

Yellow: “Marginal”. Yellow can be used to denote either of two conditions:

  • Borderline or declining performance, which needs increased management attention and resources to achieve desired performance or to reverse a negative trend.
  • Acceptable performance that relies on a set of conditions which could change and quickly send performance into the “Red” category.

The authors conducted an independent evaluation of safety-related PIs for a client with several sites involved in processing chemicals and waste streams. The following five key focus areas of safety performance indicators were identified as a result of research conducted into the topic:

·       Personnel Safety

·       Public Safety

·       Emergency Preparedness

·       Physical Protection

·       Safety Culture

This paper will discuss the process used to identify candidate safety performance indicators and underlying data requirements for each of these five focus areas.

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