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  • Writer's pictureErik Lindén | Consultant

What is SIMOPS? - A Comprehensive Guide to Simultaneous Operations

A Comprehensive Guide to SIMOPS (Simultaneous Operations)

Definition and background

In industrial process and manufacturing contexts, simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) involve multiple activities being carried out simultaneously, potentially creating a cluster of new risks. Usually, risks are prevented or mitigated through the presence of safety systems, in combination with routines and safety margins. Nevertheless, these control measures sometimes lack effective protection, for the cluster of new risks associated with SIMOPS, to ensure a safe workplace for the employees.

To target the complexity of SIMOPS in risk assessment, this article will guide you through some of the most frequent guidewords and credible characteristics within the subject.

Two or more operations in the same area

As soon as there are two or more operations being carried out simultaneously, there is suddenly a spectrum of new safety aspects to be considered and dealt with before proceeding with the process. Not adequately considering the new safety aspects is making the operations more hazardous, possibly resulting in an accident.

Interfering activities

Negligence of adjacent activities

SIMOPS, as per its name, involve multiple activities carried out simultaneously. It is not unusual, that these activities are performed next to each other, dangerously influencing the work of the near-by activities. A common scenario is a dropped object event, where an operator who is performing on-floor maintenance work is hit by an object dropped from a crane or similar.

Typically, there are permits, procedures and regulatory frameworks, e.g. Manual of Permitted Operations (MOPO), that instructively tell operators about the possible activities performed in a working area. These preventative control measures are normally effective as the operations were defined long ago, meaning that the repetitive procedures have become routines and common behaviour. The issue enters when these routines smoothly and unnoticed starts to grow into old habits, where new hazards more or less get neglected. The problematics with this behaviour is that no additional risk reduction measures are added to the additional hazards introduced, successively making the work environment more and more vulnerable.

Increased safety measures

Naturally, with new identified risks, the relevancy of performing these activities safely comes with greater importance. With regards to this aspect, all possible activity interactions should incorporate more general cautiousness and thoughtful decisions. Further, this can be broken down into certain activities executed by the management team, e.g., time management, education and experience sharing as well as

Planning (time, duration, personnel, equipment)

Planning - key element in SIMOPS risk assessment.
Planning - key element in SIMOPS risk assessment.

As in any project, a detailed plan is a prerequisite for the safe performance of activities. Planning consists of several key aspects, such as starting time, duration as well as required manning and equipment. For SIMOPS, adequate planning is the be-all and end-all control measure since it is in this stage where risks can be flagged and accounted for. Paying extra attention on shaping a dedicated time plan is therefore an effective way to prevent many of the avoidable risks.

Understanding other parts risks

Understanding and awareness - reduces the overall risk level.
Understanding and awareness - reduces the overall risk level.

In addition to well organised and planned activities, it is of great relevancy that there is an understanding among various parts, i.e., contractors, subcontractors, regarding each other's activities and the risks involved. This means, that not only the party responsible for their task, but other adjacent parties, must be aware of and be able to evaluate the relevant level of risk. Recognition and understanding of external party risks can therefore reduce the overall risk in a facility.

Conducting SIMOPS as part of risk assessment

Multidisciplinary workshop

An effective way to identify and assess SIMOPS proactively is to conduct workshops where a broad range of stakeholders meet to identify and analyse how potential interactions between various activities could effect each other. The attendees are usually from different departments, representing the engineering, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and management team. Together, they complement each other's thoughts on possible risks on the occasion of SIMOPS. Ideally, the workshop attendees come up with suggestions to prevent or mitigate any kind of risks. This can be done by establishing actions points that each responsible actor must be comply with and carry out prior to any activity.

In several aspects, this kind of workshops constitutes one of the foundations in a successful SIMOPS risk assessment process. By pinpointing possible interactions involving critical moments, preventative control measures can be implied prior to first operation, ultimately preventing Additionally, a workshop can quality assure the previously confirmed MOPO, and possibly provide what?

Multidisciplinary workshop - a way to identify and analyse SIMOP risk.
Multidisciplinary workshop - a way to identify and analyse SIMOP risk.

SIMOPS reviews and identification of new hazards

It is not uncommon that SIMOP activities are changed or updated post the SIMOPS workshop. Whenever that is the case, it is important to look in the mirror and review what was discussed in the first session to see if there are any performance deviations or changes in operations. If there are such deviations, changes or even discoveries of new hazards that may conflict the previous SIMOPS risk assessment, these should be identified, recorded and accounted for in future SIMOPS procedures.

SIMOPS review - a way to caption deviations and identify new hazards in operations.
SIMOPS review - a way to caption deviations and identify new hazards in operations.

Industries facing SIMOPS in operations

Oil and gas industry

SIMOPS in oil and gas industry.
SIMOPS in oil and gas industry.

In oil and gas, especially on offshore sites, two or more operations being performed simultaneously, is not an unusual sight. On a normal workday on an offshore platform, there is usually various maintenance work to be performed while the production must be upheld without any major disturbances. Ultimately, this means that control measures must be established to maintain safety.

It is generally acknowledged that oil platforms are considered dangerous workplaces. Not completely unexpected, SIMOPS is one base reason for this general consensus. Since 1950s and onwards, oil platforms have been accommodated by personnel to ensure that the oil extraction is performed safely. Onboard the rigs, all personnel must therefore be instructed and receive permit to (PTW) in order to safely extract the oil without risking their life to an extent that could have been avoided.

Industrial sites (chemical, construction, machinery etc.)

SIMOPS in industrial facilities.
SIMOPS in industrial facilities.

Similar to the oil and gas industry, industrial sites constitute several critical process steps in the production line that can be harmful to people and the environment. Since the production lines usually are continuous, maintenance and repairs must be performed during operations. SIMOPS is therefore a given prerequisite. Consequently, this places high demands on safety and thus on the individuals performing the work.

Ways for your company to manage SIMOPS

Long term management - Regular SIMOP workshops, reviews and site rounds

As previously mentioned, it is of great value to continuously evaluate potential risks on a site. This way, new risk scenarios can be identified and prevented if directly dealt with. This can be performed with workshops, reviews and additionally site rounds.

Short term management - Avoid unnecessary SIMOPS by sufficient planning

As equipment can get damaged with need for repairs or service, there might emerge situations where SIMOPS might become an issue. This typically evolves into an issue when SIMOPS normally are not performed. Such situations requires sufficient planning and adaptation by the team affected. Best scenario is that the repair or maintenance procedure allows for stop in production, minimising the number of simultaneous activities. If that is not possible, then management team together with operators must coordinate to ensure that potential risks are reduced to an acceptable extent before entering SIMOPS.

If uncertain on how to manage SIMOPS - Contact third party expertise

Managing SIMOPS can be a challenge. It can be difficult knowing where to start and to get your team onboard the concept, understanding its importance. If you feel that this is overwhelming to do yourself, please contact us, and we will happily support your company towards a sustainable SIMOPS management.

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