Is it possible to become 100% compliant and what for?

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As we spoke in our 12/09/2017 post, the oil and gas immediate savings motive has a potential for safety issues.  Here we will discuss the safety compliance options, and will outline an umbrella against major incidents and their implications. We start from a brief of the Australian Health and Safety legislation (if you are within, familiarizing with the below references is highly recommended). It could also be consistent with other countries safety management main principles – please check your local health and safety (H&S) legislation.

toy with sun umbrella

The Australian top level enforceable safety law is the Workplace Health and Safety Act (WHS Act, 2011), which is the legal framework for penalty decisions. It is supplemented by WHS Regulations, which are State specific, but all follow the same base model with minor changes (reference [1]). These Regulations describe the general requirements to the H&S risk control.

There is also a range of State approved Codes of Practice (CoP) which provide practical guidelines on how to meet the WHS Act requirements, and are enforceable too (for example – reference [2]).

Finally, there is a series of explanatory Guidelines by Safe Work Australia which detail the expectations and requirements of regulatory bodies in a language relevant to plant personnel.

The WHS Act and its Regulations apply to Major Hazard (MH) facilities and any facilities containing hazardous media above certain volume thresholds. The Act requires the scope facilities to have in place and operating Safety Management System (SMS, [3]), which implies risk assessment and control processes at a level deeper than other legislation for non-MH facilities. The WHS Act also requires an MH facility owner to prepare and maintain the facility safety case [4], which is as an ongoing safety demonstration document. Relevant regulation [1] clauses are 558, 560, 561, 563, 570, 575.

Looking at a typical safety case, we can see an owner/operator compliance demonstration elements as follows:

  • identifying hazards
  • qualifying them into risks
  • setting risk controls using the ALARP criterion

As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) stands for the situations where controlling risks to lower levels becomes economically non-practical, meaning that this approach is highly sensitive to ongoing financial considerations. If we refer to the WHS Act Sections 17 and 18, we will find that ALARP risk levels are very challenging to prove:

… ALARP is what is reasonably able to be done, weighting up all relevant factors including:

(c) what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably know, about:
(i) the hazard or the risk; and
(ii) ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk; and:

(e) after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.’

So, when stating an ALARP risk level, are you confident that the cost of a better risk control was grossly disproportionate according to what you were reasonably ought to know about the risk magnitude and about the methods available to eliminate it? Perhaps… No.

Is there any other way to demonstrate compliance, but with no use of the subjective ALARP criterion? Yes, a Quantitative Risk Assessment route (QRA) can also be applied, refer chapter 5.4 of the Guideline [5]. Then the compliance demonstration elements become:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Quantify them into risks
  3. Set safety exposure limits (numerically)
  4. Assign risk controls which achieve a safety exposure below the limit set
  5. Compliance demonstrated automatically. No more ALARP excuses needed.

Let me guess what you are thinking? QRA is easier to say than do! Is it feasible at all at the equipment individual level?

Good news!  Yes, we can do it ‘on a budget’. We’ve made a lot of effort to develop an applied integrity management system CoRBI®, which quantifies risks in the above way of QRA. The risks are then evaluated numerically using the As Low As Reasonably Economical (ALARE) and As Low As Reasonably Safe (ALARS) criteria. Both criteria are numeric and remove decisions’ subjectivism. For more details, you are welcome to download our APPEA 2017 presentation [6].

three spanners of different sizes

And finally, let’s answer the ‘What For?’ part of the question:

  • For low risk equipment (no or low safety consequence), risk controls choice and timing can be based on the ALARE (financial) criterion. This justifies the risk controls decisions (for example, inspection timing, coverage and tools) in terms of dollars.
  • For high risk equipment, the ALARS (safety) criterion drives the risk control/timing decisions, so that the safety exposure in the future will never exceed our safety objective set, providing that recommended risk controls will be applied.

The above points are regarded as an ultimate and seamless compliance, which also offers an effective control to sudden failures’ financial and reputational implications through limiting failure risks down to compliant levels.

[1] Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, Queensland Government, 2011
[2] ‘Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace’, Code of Practice, Safe Work Australia, March 2016
[3] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities: Safety Management Systems’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012
[4] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities. Safety Case: Demonstrating the Adequacy of Safety Management and Control Measures’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012
[5] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities. Safety Assessment’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012
[6] Presentation ‘High level introduction to CoRBI’, RevF, Quanty Pty Ltd, 2017

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