(156b) Encouraging the Use of Inherent Safety

Authors: 
Moore, D. A., AcuTech Group, Inc.
Many organizations are still not taking full advantage of the opportunities for inherent safety as a tool to reduce risks in Process Safety Management (PSM) initiatives. As a result, the industry may be leaving “risk on the table” that could be reduced, potentially for “free”. In the need to set performance targets to world class “operational excellence” to succeed, inherent safety is a critical element of any process safety strategy.

The first priority to the adoption of inherent safety is the recognition of the meaning of and full set of opportunities of inherent safety. There may be a perception that inherent safety is not a suitable strategy since the core technology or chemical cannot be changed and that it may be threatening to the very existence of some facilities or companies in chemical manufacturing, storage, or use if forced to do so. This is a misconception because it may not be appreciated that inherent safety philosophy is that any move in an inherently safer direction using the four strategies of inherent safety (minimize, simplify, substitute, and moderate) is a positive step. Inherent safety can be applied on a macro or mico level, and most opportunities with existing and modified plants are not being realized.

What may have been lacking is additional guidance clearly defining a process for practically applying inherent safety principles at all stages of a process lifecycle. CCPS recognized this and formed a committee to update the leading “Guidelines for Inherently Safer Chemical Processes: A Life Cycle Approach, 2nd Edition. This culminated in 2014 in the start of a new CCPS guideline project “Essential Practices for Developing, Strengthening and Implementing Process Safety Culture – Project # 249” led by AcuTech. The new guidelines will be make the case that there are many ways to apply the principles of inherent safety. This paper will explain the use of the guideline and the key findings for an application of the approach.

Inherently Safer Chemical Processes presents a holistic approach to making the development, manufacture, and use of chemicals safer. It discusses strategies for substituting more benign chemicals at the development stage, minimizing risk in the transportation of chemicals, using safer processing methods at the manufacturing stage, and decommissioning a manufacturing plant. Since the publication of the original concept book in 1996, there have been many developments on the concept of inherent safety. This new edition provides the latest knowledge so that engineers can derive maximum benefit from inherent safety.

Key to the success of a inherent safety is to institute the philosophy into the PSM culture of the organization. All employees should be encouraged to strive to employ these principles to continually evaluate opportunities to make safety improvements.

AcuTech believes a new focus on inherent safety will prove to be an invaluable means of achieving excellence in PSM. This requires:

  • Deep management and employee commitment
  • Understanding of the principles
  • Reinforcing the use of inherent safety
  • Support for employees that make justified inherently safer suggestions
  • A systematic and sustained approach to evaluate and implement inherent safety
  • Making inherent safety a ‘way of doing business’ that everyone understands, appreciates, and voluntarily and enthusiastically follows.

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