Is effective process safety management hindered by a lack of leadership involvement?

According to research conducted with process safety management professionals, those involved in process safety see a number of challenges in delivering effective process safety management programmes.

From a recent survey*, 65% acknowledged a gap between their company’s process safety goals and the reality of what they were achieving.  For those operating in the hazardous industries this is particularly concerning, although it is not stated whether the goals were particularly stretching or just advisory. 

When asked what the main challenges were:

  • 46% see training and competency challenges are ever present
  • 32% say being able to engage front line staff to improve awareness
  • Lack of resources is cited by 28%
  • Ageing facilities selected by 27%
  • 38% state maintaining management involvement is a major challenge

Looking across these answers, the trend of lack of time, money and resources is a common theme.

A lack of training coupled with difficulties in engaging front line staff, suggests there are real issues in people management and education – if those who carry out routine maintenance and production have gaps in their capabilities and understanding, this is bound to have an impact on meeting process safety goals. 

Leadership in process safety (PSL) – maintaining management involvement is currently seen as an issue for nearly 40% of respondents – plays a crucial role in cultivating a robust safety culture to drive improvement. PSL necessitates the commitment and accountability of senior management and leaders to make process safety a fundamental value and strategic priority. This involves setting clear expectations, allocating sufficient resources and effective communication.

In many respects, engagement of management could resolve the challenges listed. 

Budget allocation for training, managing and updating facilities, and allocating resources for auditing and managing key elements of a process safety management programme should be within the gift of senior management. So, what’s getting in the way?

For some years now, PSL training has been available with the aim of equipping managers with the knowledge, skills, and mindset necessary to effectively lead and manage process safety within an organisation.  However, shorter term issues in the UK, such as we have seen recently with rising energy prices and issues with REACH and the wider impact of Brexit, potentially puts it lower down the list.

The HSE have provided some clear guidance to encourage leadership to pick up the mantle with their toolkit for leading health and safety at work

Within this there are some simple questions that need to be answered.

In short, to ensure effective health and safety management:

  • Plan; by demonstrating the board’s commitment.
  • Do; by ensuring competent health and safety advice, proper consultation, appropriate risk assessment, and implementation of sensible control measures.
  • Check; by staying informed through audits, receiving regular health and safety data, and benchmarking.
  • Act; by facilitating a board-level review of health and safety performance.

This approach drives a comprehensive strategy, covering commitment, competency, consultation, assessment, information flow, benchmarking, and continuous board-level review for a robust health and safety framework.

In many respects, the checklist is really just suggesting a systematic approach, which drives the right behaviour consistently.

Our software, OpenPSM, actually delivers the information suggested on the checklist and more.   

A simple SaaS product, built around internationally recognised good practice guidance, it allows operators to easily review and manage their own PSM programmes. It has been designed to help companies ensure that their systems and procedures are fit for purpose before drilling down into the detail to look at what’s happening on site. Using a structured approach, it enables users to assess their management systems against best practice guidance, then conduct deep dive audits, to see how well site behaviour reflects that intended.

OpenPSM helps embed key aspects of good major hazard leadership within the culture of your business. Relevant staff will undertake audits to build the big picture, enabling teams to become more actively engaged in safety management in their respective workplaces. Peer reviews allow comparisons and benchmarking between sites to share learnings. OpenPSM also boosts stakeholder understanding of performance against risk-based goalsetting legislation.

For effective process safety management, get in touch!

*Research by Sphera November 2023