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By Gregory Hale
Long thought of as an important area for any manufacturer, but also a big cost area, safety can now be a profit center.

“Traditionally, process safety has been considered a sunk cost,” said Dr. Martin Turk, director of hydrocarbon processing services at Invensys Operations Management during his talk entitled “Safety Excellence: Improving Operational Value Through Innovation,” during Invensys OpsManage ’11 Thursday in Nashville, TN. “If you view the idea of keeping the plant running means more profit, we view safety as a value generator.”

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Keeping a plant up and running and eliminating downtime is no small feat these days as Turk said there is one measureable safety incident a day in the chemical industry alone.

“Our ability to manage process safety is only as strong as the weakest link,” Turk said. He added companies have strong technology, they also have the ability to train workers and processes remain vigorous, but the industry still has issues. He cited reports out of the UK and Norway that show big percentage increase in safety releases year over year.

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The reasons for the incidents are many-fold, but it usually comes back to one focused cause, Turk said. “The lack of following procedures is one of the reasons behind failures.”

One way to cut down on failures, would be to give operators real time decision making capabilities. True information, in the proper context, right at their fingertips, Turk said.

“The impact of safety decisions have a big economic impact,” Turk said. “If you give people the right information, they will steer everything in the right direction. They will understand the risk impact and make the right decision.”

If you get the information in the hands of operators, he said you can reduce production, maintenance, insurance and capital budget costs by significant percentages.

He talked about one case of getting information in hands of the proper people when there was a small fire at a Saudi Aramco refinery not too long ago.

He said there was a valve the company should have maintained every six months, but in fact they did not work on it in seven years. He said the packing in the valve rotted out. So, when there was an issue the product was not able to travel through the valve to the flare area, so it blew out the valve and there was a small fire.

“It wasn’t a big thing, but it could have been,” he said. “You have got to maintain the equipment.”

If the right people had the right information in front of them, they could have made the decision to make sure the valve was getting the attention it deserved, he said.

“Risk goes up every time you fail to do something or fail to maintain something,” said Bret Moore, Invensys’ director of safety lifecycle services in North America. “We need a safety system, not just a safety instrumented system.”

That is why if you give operators a real time view into the system, they can run the process more efficiently and head off any potential safety incidents before they happen.

“If you have a view into the plant you can reduce risk automatically,” Turk said. “Increased visibility will allow the operator to measure risk.”

Turk talked about their risk meter called Machu Picchu, which Invensys has an exclusive deal with ACM Facility Safety, that operators can measure risk and executives have the ability to understand what is happening and they can plan accordingly. A better view means more potential profit.

“We now have to ability to have actionable decision making capabilities and find out key performance indicators,” Turk said. “The risk meter can mean more profit. If you visualize what the risk is early enough, you can eliminate losses and increase profit.”

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