As you well know, I started this blog to highlight all the good things that chemical engineers do and how we can make a positive difference.
The stimulus for me to do this came from my experience of talking to the media (see my blog on ‘Chemical engineers and the media‘) and in particular, when asked to comment on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Process safety is embedded in our profession and is considered in everything we do. Because of this we are always striving towards improvements in process design, process delivery and also in research – something we definitely need to talk more about.
So I was pleased to learn that a group of researchers from Norway, Italy and Canada have investigated a dynamic approach to risk management.
Their particular focus is on metal dust explosions. Dust can present a significant hazard in mining, food processing (eg flour dust) and other industrial settings.
The research, published in the journal Process Safety and Environmental Protection is entitled: ‘Dynamic approach to risk management: Application to the Hoeganaes metal dust accidents‘.
Using the Dynamic Risk Management Framework (DRMF), two specific methodologies were adopted.
First, the Dynamic Procedure for Atypical Scenarios Identification (DyPASI) is based on the bow-tie analysis technique.
And second, the Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA) estimates the frequency of incidents and uses this to calculate overall risk.
Risks change with time, so the development of this framework involves the dynamic evolution of systems to account for this.
Stages of this method involve horizon screening, identification then decision and actions. Alongside this, continual monitoring and review of risk takes place. This continuous phase involves constant improvement, communication and consultation.
The dynamic process and continuous process, creates a circular framework. This reiterates something that is discussed a lot in process safety – that we must review and learn continually.
When this framework was applied to the case study of a metal dust explosion, not all information was known.
Certain specific details such as equipment typology were not available, but the model was based on the information available.
A summary of accident sequence precursors (ASPs) was put together. This allowed the frequency of accidents to be recorded, which then led to the calculation of failure probability.
This work should help develop a better understanding of risk. Through a combined approach of hazard identification and risk assessment, the manner in which risks emerge and increase can be considered
The application of this methodology to a specific case study has found many benefits. However, as the authors acknowledge, it still requires an effective process safety culture.
There have been many bad news stories about chemical engineering, often about process safety incidents. So it is vital that we learn from these, but also make sure we talk about the good stories.
This paper makes a useful contribution to process safety research. It reminds us that continuous evaluation and assessment of risk is essential. Incidents are not isolated, we must learn and continue to apply this knowledge.
Over the next six weeks, IChemE will be once again hosting a series of process safety conferences across the world.
First there is the 3rd Hazards Asia Pacific symposium in Malaysia, followed by Hazards 25 in the UK and finally, Hazards Australasia 2015, in Brisbane. I shall be talking at Hazards Asia Pacific and Hazards 25, so I hope to see you there!