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  • Writer's pictureCarsten Stegelmann | Principal Consultant

Safety strategies - The essentials of a good strategy

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Safety strategies

Safety strategies are important to ensure that proper risk management is implemented in the design of process facilities. Of course, a final well-thought-out safety strategy could include everything from a safety manual and safety case to escape routes for evacuation and a high-quality safety instrumented system. However, here we will focus on a few important things to keep in mind when preparing a safety strategy.

In oil & gas standards such as ISO 13702 and NORSOK S-001, safety strategies are prepared during the early design phase. Although it may not be a standard requirement for onshore process plants, preparing a safety strategy is advisable.

A safety strategy can be a single document or refer to a host of related safety documents, e.g., Fire and Explosion Strategy (FES), Escape, Evacuation, and Rescue Strategy (EERS), F&G strategy or philosophy, Fire protection philosophy, etc.

The safety strategy is a cornerstone in technical safety design. You can view it as the technical safety design basis of a project. The safety strategy links hazard identification, risk analyses, safety studies, and the technical safety design, demonstrating that adequate safety barriers are in place. The safety strategy will form the basis for developing performance standards and functional specifications for safety barriers.

It is important that you consider the safety strategy to be a live document. It should start in the conceptual design phase and mature through basic engineering design and detailed design. You should also keep updating your safety strategy throughout the lifecycle of the plant.

You should develop a safety strategy to impact the project's design development to implement adequate risk management in a structured and consistent way as the project progresses. It is also important that you view it as a task of many disciplines with interfaces to the other design disciplines.

The purpose of a safety strategy.

Generally speaking, there are two main purposes of a safety strategy:

  1. It will form a safety design basis for all of the disciplines to follow to achieve the safety goals of the project.

  2. Clients, authorities, or other external stakeholders will have an easier time understanding the thinking behind the safety design. It will also demonstrate to them the actions and steps taken to meet the safety goal.

The two purposes tend to pull the safety strategy in different directions:

For item 1, the aim is to provide as specific instructions to the design team as possible. The design team does not necessarily need to understand the details of the safety decisions. However, they do need to know what they need to do. Hence the design team tends to prefer a strategy that is "to the point".

For item 2, it is necessary to explain the motivation for different design choices that impact safety. Otherwise, future changes may degrade the original design intent if there is no clear understanding of why things have been done a certain way. But, again, this will require discussions that sometimes defies to be to the point.

Common problems with safety strategies.

Many safety strategies suffer from some common problems. They are:

  1. Repeating high-level HSE policies, goals, risk acceptance criteria, etc. This is not very fruitful. We recommend that you instead prepare an HSE philosophy for this purpose. Then you can reference this document in the safety strategy. Try to make the document "to the point" rather than lengthy.

  2. Repeating a lot of text from international standards making them lengthy and exhausting to read. We recommend that you instead reference the standards. We also recommend that you focus solely on where one of the many design choices within the framework of the standards has been taken or deviations from standards.

  3. In many cases, safety strategies are high-level and generic. In other words, you would be able to use these safety strategies for several different installations e.g. different O&G offshore platforms. But a safety strategy must address the specifics of a project. If the safety strategy becomes generic, it becomes irrelevant. A safety strategy created for a specific plant will always be better than a generic one that fits many different plants.

  4. There is often a failure to keep the safety strategies updated after the completion of the design. Therefore, you must view the safety strategy as a "live document". Because of this, you should structure the safety strategy in a way that makes it easy to update it.

ORS Consulting supports clients in many sectors with safety strategies, risk analyses, and technical safety. Any comments?

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