Safety and Profit – Can They Coexist?

By Greg Alvarado, Chief Editor at Inspectioneering. August 31, 2023

As a fixed equipment reliability professional, what is success to you? Do you realize that the quality of your work makes a difference in the lives of many, including family members and friends of colleagues who work in facilities?

Codes, standards, and regulations are routinely introduced to keep workers safe. Many of these are instituted following incidents and catastrophes where human lives were lost. Such incidents continue to happen even today. You know the historical examples such as the Sultana explosion, the Piper Alpha incident, the Horizon incident, and many others. Titles of two books by the late Trevor Kletz (What Went Wrong and Still Going Wrong) demonstrate the difficulties we have in repeating history and not learning from past experiences. Perhaps the root of most of these issues lie in what we as a collective industry value.

Ask yourself this question: can safety and profit coexist?

In my many years as a member of API’s Subcommittee on Inspection and Mechanical Integrity (SCIMI), it has been a pleasure to work with like-minded professionals who care about the quality of work done in keeping facilities safe and reliable. Note well that part of the committee’s name includes the word integrity. This word impacts work quality and worker character and should be a constant reminder to stay on point.

Those employed in the oil and gas, petrochemical, and chemical industries typically enjoy a good standard of living and contribute to the global quality of life through the products we manufacture, either directly (finished goods) or indirectly (raw and intermediate goods). Throughout this process, it’s up to you to help keep facilities safe and reliable by proactively identifying areas of vulnerability and providing recommendations to address potential issues before they result in an undesirable event.

In the latest version of Marsh Specialty’s 100 Largest Losses in the Hydrocarbon Industry (27th Edition, 2022), the authors commend industry performance over the last few years, while at the same time cautioning the industry to continue to improve. That will require diligence and importantly, to avoid complacency. We can always improve. The report uses industry performance statistics to point to opportunities to improve reliability and availability, which brings us full circle to the perspective that safety and reliability should not be at odds with one another; in fact, they contribute to one another’s success. Even from purely a business perspective, leaks and releases are not conducive to profit or public image, which ultimately hurts profitability.

Not only can safety and profit coexist, they must coexist.

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