Process safety, the gap between intentions and execution

Process safety, the gap between intentions and execution

In a world rocked by pandemics and war, security and safety awareness have never been higher. Yet there is a worrying gap between safety intent and reality on the ground. Improving safety performance and reducing risk is almost always an objective. In contrast, many industrial companies do not have the right plans and tools in place to achieve this goal. Learn more about safety culture, the various factors that influence and drive safety performance, and the role of systems in enabling appropriate levels of safety and risk management.


Organizational culture is one of the components that has a major impact on process safety management. But working with third parties, internal procedures and insufficient support from senior management also create challenges. Board members may say that safety is their top priority, but that message is not necessarily well conveyed or followed in the company. Only when the board makes safety a priority will it result in an improvement in safety performance.


Equally important than being aware of operational risks is functional leadership and awareness of health and safety barriers. The relationship between process safety and front-line operations is still often not sufficiently understood and aligned. Everyone at the site needs to understand and manage the potential risks according to the same criteria. Therefore, it is important that they have a sufficient understanding of how their decisions directly or indirectly affect the risk picture.


A solid safety system requires a consistent flow of operational information across a plant’s various departments. A breakdown in that cooperation can lead to safety incidents. In many industrial enterprises, there is still little or no sharing of knowledge or information across departments, groups and functions. A silo approach makes the barriers an organization has to prevent major accident hazards from occurring less robust. To counteract this, it is important to establish a solid system of communication. With third parties, but also within the organization.


Some telling statements about the causes of accidents and incidents:
“Process safety is specialized knowledge and is typically not understood by operations and maintenance, leading to gaps in implementation.”
“Production takes precedence over safety and this often leads to shortcuts and safety incidents.”
“The company’s safety policy is not supported by effective and efficient planned preventive maintenance.” These examples indicate the gap between process safety and front-line operations. They expose the contradictions between safety culture and safety aspirations. Thus, effective behavior at the site does not match intentions of process safety planning. This gets to the heart of the process safety challenge. Valuable engineering sciences around process safety are being deployed. They determine how plants should be designed and operated to keep assets and people safe. Despite this, safety barriers weaken over time. So there is basically a gap between operational intent and operational reality, and between policy and implementation.


Research by Fedris, the federal agency for occupational risks, shows that 1 in 9 occupational accidents is sweeped under the carpet. The Dutch Labour Inspectorate speaks of 30% to 50% unreported work accidents. Or as safety expert Bart Vanraes likes to say “They are hidden under a layer of Tippex”. Accidents at work become tippex accidents for financial reasons or to prevent damage to reputation. They also occur because victims don’t speak up. They don’t know, can’t assess properly or don’t think it’s important. They don’t dare or shouldn’t speak up or are afraid of losing their bonus.
Prevention is made more difficult by the distortion of official data. The result is that problem situations remain unchanged and the likelihood of similar future accidents increases.


To eliminate gaps in safety policy, everyone in an organization must be armed with the right information. Better-informed decisions lead to greater safety. There is no shortage of information. But often a company does not have effective solutions for monitoring and managing it all. By adopting a resolute safety posture and implementing the right IT systems, you bridge the gap between safety intent and execution.

Onyx One is a contractor management system. It is the SaaS solution that organizes and monitors the collaboration between the client and the contractor companies.

Onyx One has been the partner of the European industry for more than 10 years. It is a stable, complete and reliable system, which ensures the qualification process, the onboarding and the follow-up of contractors and subcontractors.

It is intuitive software, built with modular solutions.

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