Safety Means Business Benefits

Monday, April 2, 2012 @ 11:04 AM gHale

By Gregory Hale
It is one thing for companies selling safety solutions to talk about the advantages of safety and what it could mean to the bottom line, but when an end user of magnitude talks about it, there is an air of assurance that resonates.

“Good safety is good business,” said Michael Dolan, senior vice president at ExxonMobil Corp. during Monday’s keynote address at the AIChE Spring Meeting and the Global Congress on Process Safety in Houston.

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Dolan talked about some famous disasters. “Bhopal, India, December 3 1984, 3,000 people died shortly after the toxic chemical release. Piper Alpha, 176 workers never returned home in the worst platform incident in history. Pasadena, Texas; Texas City; Deepwater Horizon. All of these were process safety disasters and all were preventable with proper work on the details.”

“Just one instant is all it takes to change lives; change a company’s reputation,” Dolan said.

Dolan talked about one disaster at his company gave a change of direction. “We overhauled our safety culture after the Valdez incident. We are focused on a safety culture that drives the safety enterprise.”

Exxon has now gotten to a point where they will thoroughly investigate any incident that leads to a release because “any release can lead to a fatality.” They will go about identifying risk on a case by case basis. Then they will go about mitigating risk before a disaster could even happen.

“The only way to improve is to study what works and what doesn’t,” Dolan said.

Dolan said company leadership need to focus on safety and make sure everyone else within the organization follows suit. But, he said, it doesn’t stop there.

“Safety has to be internalized with all workers and contractors every day.”

In addition, workers have to think of safety from the moment they get out of college and hit the workforce. Students need more than just a mention of process safety in the coursework, Dolan said. They need more than just an elective on process safety. They need the school to incorporate process safety into its mindset so it will become part of a students’ DNA when they hit the workforce.

He sees positives where process safety is becoming mandatory as part of a chemical engineer’s curriculum requirements.

“Process safety,” Dolan said, “has been an elective that people could or could not take, but the new requirements are a positive step forward.”

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