March????? Any way to March Ahead or Grounded ???

The Month of March had its major share of Industrial Disasters which made the world take notice and work course correction as to how such process Industries are run safely without unnecessary loss of lives and damage to environment.

  1. Three Mile Island, Radio active near miss; March 28,1979, I recollect the havoc caused in print media and Radio news!! ( I was in School, packing bags for Holiday travel)
  2. Exon Valdez,  Major oil Spill, March 24,1989, Causing untold environmental disaster to flora/fauna as well as health hazard to 10,000 folks who handled the situation. Deep Water horizon took over later as largest spill.
  3. bp, Texas City Refinery Explosion, March 23, 2005. Incident shook the world, Ripper of an explosion. 15 Killed including bp Employees. 
  4. Triangle Shirtwaist  Factory Fire, March 1911, New York City, 146 workers killed mostly Woman in Garment factory. This incident lead to better working condition for woman in USA and some work place safety norms improved.
  5. Coal Mine Disaster, Centralia, IL, March 25,1947;111 Killed, Coal Mine Dust explosion due to an Ignition.

Industrial explosions and disasters occur every other month and take its toll. Bhopal happened in December, Piper Alpha in July, Chernobyl in April, BASF, Ludwigshafen explosion in September, etc. In India they are common and occurs every other month and data is never known nor reported. So it would be difficult to put a tally to lives lost as well as property loss/damage. 

So when you are in Process Industry, handling hazardous materials thus incidents with serious consequences are part and parcel of the system. One may wonder,What is that best in class organisations do to stay away from having such events and create a safer and productive work place.

“IF YOU THINK SAFETY IS COSTLY, TRY HAVING A CATASTROPHIC ACCIDENT- Trevor Kletz! AAEAAQAAAAAAAAYOAAAAJDEyNjAyMzkxLTViYjctNDcxOC04ZTJhLTdiZDQ3ZmZiMThmZQ.jpgThe Answers that how they do well, are as below from my personal experience.

  1. Leadership: It requires a great leadership to manage QESH with a concept of Safety adds value to business and if it doesn’t add value, don’t do it. Business Leaders set expectations, empower ESH Folks, and track them through Critical metrics and DEMAND progress on the same. No News is BAD NEWS. Metrics covers Safety, Environment status, Process Safety validation, Behavioural & Conditions monitoring, Special Audits (Viz, Rotary part, Static Electricity Hazard, Horizontal deployment of learning from Global Incidents etc). Great leaders make people around them SWEAT!!!  True leaders establish trust in the Environment / community in which they operate through dialogue, Transparency, Lead initiatives.
  2. Risk Assessment:– Manage Risk through team participation covering all aspects. Risk covered from Design stage through Exhaustive process safety review. Spread the spectrum covering Frequency, Severity, Probability, % people exposed as minimum parameters to consider so that risks are spread apart to know the significance and implement the risk mitigation measures as appropriate. Site/Business/Contry Risk Portfolio are worked annually and escalated as required to parent organisation. No Surprises!
  3. Right People for the right job with skills enhancement. Post training, awareness, communication and implementing procedures arising out of risk assessment (residual risks) people are empowered to report abnormal, non standard situations without fear or reprimand. The culture of questioning attitude is encouraged. If it doesn’t make sense, Dont ever attempt it.
  4. Highest standard of Asset Integrity, no compromise on norms to meet Preventive maintenance, Tests, calibration. (CLAIR) No deviations allowed,what so ever. Hire top-notch engineers with proven experience such as those who managed ships in DEEP SEA with no support for 1000s of miles, to carry out safe keeping of High explosive,High hazardous process maintenance with tons of resources with duly approved budget justified from ZERO Based Budgeting. image3_535x314Corrective actions are closed on time, on budget with overdue items escalated UP in the chain as per protocols established, to seek support/funding.
  5. Establish programs and infrastructure that go far beyond the basic legal compliance.Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 5.41.59 PM  An example was Local law for fire fighting water required is 3 Hrs with 350Cub met water. Global bench mark is 8 hrs of fire fighting with 1500 Cub Met Water. Implement the same considering the risk involved. If a Toll manufacturing, III party facility that handles highly fish toxic pesticides is 200 meter from a Drinking water canal, establish measures such as Tertiary containment and impervious flooring to ensure no ground contamination can ever happen.
  6. Contractor validation of highest order with very clear expectations, skill sets,work norms and tools and tackles specifications established such that it is difficult for Tom, Dick, Harry et all, to get in meeting all the norms. Once IN, it is very tough to get out unless Integrity issue is the question. Contractor/Suppliers are treated as “LABOR PARTNERS” and due protocols are established and implemented. 
  7. Establish and implement Management Systems that go beyond the usual ISO Norms. Work the Charter Alignment to implement them so that business divisions sign off and don’t come out with an excuse not to implement, citing funding issues.responsible-care-table-1.jpgEmbrace voluntary charter programs like Responsible Care or equivalent, Green House gas emissions reductions (These add value to business-bottom line) Energy management systems standards. 
  8. Embrace audits, assessment, inspections as a routine event and make them happen like a Mundane, Non Sexy, Non Christmas program. Set internal norms / benchmarks to self assessment so as to “UNDER PROMISE – OVER DELIVER”. Audits, inspections are so much aligned to a metric that irrespective any person doing with varied degree of auditing traits, the final outcome are within range of acceptable deviation. Make people succeed by standardizing every process/program/procedure. Distil out the variations. right brainersFit people to the job; enhance right brainers
  9. Every Incident is analysed as opportunity for rapid problem solving covering 5WHY and 6M (Man, Method, Machine, Material, Mileu, Management) Every incident has potential for a rapid problem solving for working the causes fromAAEAAQAAAAAAAAdrAAAAJDU4MTMxNzM1LWZmYzEtNDg4OC1iNThiLTYzNDgxOTU2YzMwNA
    1. Avoidance of Hazard.
    2. prevention of such incidents
    3. Management System failure. In such organisations 1) HUMAN Error is never accepted as an Incident cause as it is = saying person fell due to Earth’s Gravity or as 2) conclusion “Negligence as a cause”.(No one comes to work to get killed)
  10. Non Negotiable Management of Change Program. Changes cover Process, People, Procedures, Temporary, permanent, Emergency nature. Change requests need to be completed within 48 Hrs thus establishing a sense of Urgency. Since folks are competent/skilled, absence of personnel is not an issue! Some one who is delegated down steps in to complete the deadline.Change-Management-Model

11. Despite working all the systems, programs, people, procedures, policy etc. things can still go out of hand and emergency situations like fire, spill, toxic gas release, medical emergency, off site emergency, can  still happen. But with the foresight of sound risk assessments in place, great organisations have a hands on Emergency response plans in place with adequate resources provided to manage  & overcome the situation. As Emergency situations are practiced through Drills/exercises, people work the same in the same “ROUTINE TEMPO” bringing in the extra skills needed to handle such situation.

As I had indicated in my previous posts/presentations, It all boils down to knowing -Doing GAP and how the gap that is null makes you reach excellence in safety performance. This is done, despite hazardous materials and process that can cause an adverse situations. 

Please post your thoughts and comments.


27/3/17, 0800 Hrs.




Author: Karthik B; Orion Transcenders. Bangalore.

Lives in Bangalore. HESS Professional of 30+ yrs experience. Global Exposure in 4 continents of over 22 years in implementation of Health, Environment, Safety, Sustainability. First batch of Environmental Engineers from 1985 Batch. Qualified for implementing Lean, 6Sigma, HR best practices integrating them in to HESS as value add to business.

2 thoughts on “March????? Any way to March Ahead or Grounded ???”

  1. “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is” . Yogi Berra !!!! So it all boils down to drink your own cool aid.

    Thank you for the comments. Appreciated.


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