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Process safety neglected in board discussions

Process safety is a less common topic on board agendas in high-hazard organisations than general safety performance, according to a survey by consultancy DuPont Sustainable Solutions.

Process safety neglected in board discussions
© iStock/AvigatorPhotographer

Dupont surveyed 82 senior managers from the oil and gas, mining, chemical manufacturing and construction sectors. 

Only just over two respondents in five said they discussed process safety and asset integrity at board meetings. But more than half reviewed general safety, health and environment metrics and regulatory compliance.

If boards do not focus on operational risk, they can fall prey to the “illusion of understanding”, warned DuPont, in which “performance indicators may show positive trends but risks remain hidden, waiting to strike [at] any time”.

Eight respondents in ten believed the senior managers in their organisations were aligned in their understanding of major operational risks, but less than half were confident that frontline employees were clear about these risks.

DuPont said the finding was an “indication there is an engagement gap between leaders and frontline personnel”, suggesting CEOs are not communicating adequately. “But this is a two-way street. Not only does the CEO need to be clear about his/her vision, but frontline staff also need to be able to communicate the operational risks they see to their management and leadership.”

Though nine senior managers in ten said that risk governance was an important factor in safety management, fewer than three in ten were confident their organisations managed it well. Similar gaps between priority and performance were reported for risk identification and assessment and leadership commitment.



Louis Wustemann is former editor, IOSH Magazine. He was previously editor of Health and Safety at Work magazine and Environment in Business. He has written, edited and consulted on health and safety, environmental and employment matters for more than 25 years.


  • Dear Louis,

    Permalink Submitted by Angela on 24 December 2017 - 07:21 am

    Dear Louis,

    Unfortunately, Process Safety is perceived in many companies as adding an expensive burden to projects. Then instead of ignoring the recommendations that have made by a Process Safety specialist, they tend to ignore Process Safety from the beginning of the project to avoid the cost that could potentially emerge when some solutions are provided with the aim of ensuring enough safeguards are available and avoid potential incidents that at the end of the day can become fatal accidents and will cost more money and lives if they are due to occur.

    Several incidents could have been prevented and will be prevented if Process Safety is taking seriously and is requested from the beginning of projects to avoid rework and develop inherently safe designs and avoid what seems as enormous costs on projects as this type of solutions would be provided from the beginning of the design.


    Angela Rodriguez
    Process Safety Specialist


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