Keywords: Ammonia, gas, explosion, BP Texas City, Baker Report, process safety management, leadership, culture, high reliability organisations.
Technical process safety came to prominence as a discipline in the 1960s and 1970s and has continued to develop since then. However, major process incidents continue to occur and it is by no means certain that the process industry’s performance is improving. Furthermore, the challenges have increased as many assets increase in age, and organisations and business practices evolve. The investigations into the explosion and fires at BP’s Texas City Refinery in 2005 have presented a new challenge to the process industries as a whole to re-emphasis and improve process safety management, and this has also been embraced by many regulatory agencies. This will set the tone for the years to come, particularly in terms of the role of leadership and the development of strong process safety cultures. Models are emerging to describe leadership behaviours and the characteristics of process safety cultures and more work is likely to follow. In the meantime the imperative to improve will not wait and many organisations are embracing new programmes and activities to raise the profile of process safety and improve management systems and performance. This paper describes the evolution of technical process safety, the new challenges that it faces to re-focus, the development of the concepts of process safety leadership and culture and the practical steps some organisations are taking to increase the profile of process safety.
There is particular reference to the ammonia industry because at the same time that process safety was being developed as a discipline in the 1960s and 1970s new production technologies were also being developed. Through the years there has been tremendous sharing of incident information and safety matters, however incidents continue to occur.
Phil Eames, Eur Ing, BSc CEng, FIChemE, ABB Global Consulting, Byland Way, Billingham, TS23 4EB, UK.
John R Brightling, BSc, CEng, MIMechE, Johnson Matthey Catalysts, Belasis Avenue, Billingham, TS23 1LB, UK.
19 pages, 2 figures, 1 table, 29 references.