Why Process Safety Performance Indicators Are Your Silver Lining

February 21, 2019

It's true that process safety incidents have the highest potential for significant injuries and deaths, environmental harm, property damage, business interruption, damage to your reputation, and can ultimately impact your right to operate, but there is a silver lining – if you're keeping score.

The scorekeeping system is partially defined by API 754: Process Safety Performance Indicators for the Refining and Petrochemical Industries. Process safety performance is subdivided into process safety event tiers as shown in Figure 1. We say API 754 partially defines indicators because only Tier 1 and 2 are standardized definitions, while Tiers 3 and 4 are left to be defined by the company or facility.

Figure 1: Process safety indicator pyramid

Lagging indicators measure historical, after-the-fact performance and demonstrate that a safety management system has failed to prevent an incident or other undesirable outcome.

Leading indicators typically describe or summarize the current status of safety management systems in terms of quality of results or degree of compliance with internal practices and help predict where future events are likely to occur.

So, what's the silver lining?

When process safety incidents occur in Tier 1, 2, or 3; and if the incident is investigated correctly, the gaps in your management system that caused the incident are exposed. Those gaps then provide an opportunity to improve your management systems. Tier 4 has indicators that measure performance of one or more management systems used to eliminate, reduce, or mitigate process safety hazards. If the appropriate Tier 4 indicators have been established, measured, reported, tracked, and the gaps corrected, future process safety incidents can be prevented.

Are you keeping score?

What does your process safety performance metrics system look like? Does it contain the following?

  1. Process safety performance standards and procedures that define the requirements for measuring, reporting, tracking, and improving process safety performance
  2. Ownership
    1. Process safety performance metrics system owner who provides oversight for the entire system
    2. Process Safety Management (PSM) element owners who define process safety performance indicators for each PSM element, establish frequency of data collection, collect data plus analyze, trend and report the results; and recommend corrective actions to ensure continuous improvement
  3. Tiers 1 and 2 as defined by API 754
  4. Tier 3 as defined by your company or facility to include:
    1. Safety system activations or malfunctions
    2. Process deviations or excursions operating beyond Safe Operating Limits or Integrity Operating Windows
    3. Serious failure of PSM Systems
    4. Process safety loss of primary containment incidents that do not meet the Tier 1 or 2 levels
  5. Tier 4 as defined by your company or facility to include performance indicators for each PSM element. Typically, these are the metrics established in each PSM element procedure to measure the quality of results and degree of compliance
  6. Data collection system

If not – we can help!

If you're interested in developing or improving your process safety performance metrics system, Operational Sustainability® has developed Standards, Procedures, and Field Guides for PSM elements and performance metrics, including Process Safety Performance Metrics, Conduct of Operations Performance Metrics, and Cultural Safety Performance Metrics. We can provide support and consultation including assessments and/or implementation throughout your journey.