Safety Instrumented Systems / Emerson Exchange

Best-in-Class Organizations Integrate Safety and Control

When It Comes to Safety, You Need a Contingency Plan

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By Aaron Hand

When Mike Boudreaux flew from Austin, Texas, to Roanoke, Va., via Washington, he didn't imagine that the second leg of his flight would be cancelled. He didn't imagine that it would be the last flight out of Dulles International Airport that night, and the next morning's alternative wouldn't get him to his presentation on time. He didn't imagine that he'd have to rent a car and drive four hours instead, arriving at 2 a.m. But he should have.

If he'd talked to others familiar with the route before booking his trip, he would've known that that particular flight often gets cancelled because it doesn't have enough passengers. If he'd planned ahead, he might have booked an earlier flight instead. There was plenty of data readily available showing the flight's high cancellation rate, but he didn't look at it because it wasn't at the point of purchase. "I didn't have a plan B," Boudreaux admits. "I didn't have a contingency plan."

You've heard it plenty of times before: You need a contingency plan. That's particularly true when it comes to safety. As director of Emerson Process Management's platform business development, Boudreaux understands well the importance of a contingency plan. But what might not be as well understood is just how closely best practices in safety management lifecycle correlate with best-in-class business performance.

At the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Nashville on Wednesday, Boudreaux detailed results of an independent study done last year by Aberdeen Group. The study relates overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and how best-in-class organizations handle their safety plans. The study helped to verify what Emerson had been telling its customers already: Best-in-class results have a strong correlation to the use of integrated control and safety systems.

"Best-in-class organizations in overall equipment effectiveness had established a formalized risk management strategy, which makes sense, and had also ingrained safety into their cultures," Boudreaux said. The study also showed the success of implementing a single platform to perform safety functions and plant operations, he added.

"The integral is greater than the sum of its parts," Boudreaux said, explaining the dangers of manually passing data between separate systems. "You end up with limited visibility. You end up having human error along the way. Any time hands are involved in taking data from here to there, human error is involved." Integrated systems, conversely, benefit from reduced complexity, reduced implementation costs, increased visibility and reduced human errors along the way.

Boudreaux walked workshop attendees through analysis, implementation and operation phases, detailing the importance of safety lifecycle planning throughout. Though the details of the system should not be overlooked, the key message was that integrating those phases and systems greatly reduces the chance of being surprised by safety issues within the process.