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Published: 27th June 2023

Lessons from a Process Safety Management Champion

From improved levels of workforce psychological safety to a reduction in process safety related incidents, EPC-UK shares positive outcomes and lessons from adopting the Process Safety Management (PSM) training standards for high hazard industries.

The background

  • Location: Upper COMAH tier sites UK-wide
  • Client: EPC-UK
  • Project: Process Safety Management training
  • Dates: 2011 to present

EPC-UK is a leading industry force in the field of commercial explosives, drilling and blasting services. 

Operating through five divisions comprising; Explosives, Drilling and Blasting, Chemicals, Energetics, and Logistics, EPC-UK manufactures, stores and supplies a range of commercial explosives for commercial and military applications within the mining, cement, aggregates, civil engineering and defence sectors.

With multiple high hazard upper tier COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations) sites across the UK, controlling the risk of a major accident hazard is an essential priority for the business, in order to protect the workforce, local neighbourhood and the environment – helping to maintain operational safety and business integrity.

In 2011, we were very early adopters of the Industry Board developed Process Safety Management training standards.

This is because we immediately recognised the value of the new competence and compliance safety procedures, especially as they had been developed by highly respected major accident hazard industry leaders and responsible stakeholders.

As a result of the PSM training, delivered by Cogent Skills, the entire UK operation has experienced a reduction in process safety related incidents, fewer production stoppages plus improved workforce psychological safety.

Bob Woolley
Head of Safety Health Environment & Quality, EPC-UK

The challenge

Before adopting the PSM programme training standards, EPC-UK focused on adhering to occupational safety, and recognised the fact that it was missing out functional PSM procedures.

As the multiple COMAH site operator had to produce a Safety Report for the Health & Safety Executive, it needed to check to see if its systems and workforce procedures were fully compliant to regulatory requirements.

The first step for EPC-UK was for the Board level leadership to be engaged very early within the process, in order to understand the relevant regulatory requirements and what is expected from the business, and commit to and champion the implementation of the process safety programme – from the top down.

Safety in our business is critical – it’s our primary focus, so when the PSM Competence Programme Board released its training standards we jumped at the chance to implement them into our business. We even adopted the PSM standards into our non COMAH sites – as we wanted to be a responsible business and ensure that we were operating to top-level safety procedures across all of our sites.

Bob Woolley
Head of Safety Health Environment & Quality, EPC-UK

The solution

When the PSM training programme was released in 2011, Cogent Skills promoted the new training standards to all COMAH sites listed on the Health & Safety Executive’s COMAH site register.

To make sure that its systems were operating to the best safety levels and fully compliant with all regulatory requirements, EPC-UK acted immediately and decided to adopt the PSM training standards – via a three-tier process safety model approach:

  • The first step in 2011-2012, was for ten of EPC-UK’s senior leaders and Board members to undertake the Process Safety Leadership for Senior Executives – to not only understand how to embed Process Safety Management and promote a positive safety culture throughout the organisation through effective engagement, but also get the tools to develop a detailed understanding of the business case for effective Process Safety Management.
  • Throughout 2013, the Process Safety Management Foundations training was undertaken by 24 managers, supervisors, designers, safety personnel, and senior contract employees, to get a fundamental knowledge and understanding of the principles of Process Safety Management across the entire organisation.
  • Following this success, it was decided that the Process Safety Management for Operations (PSMO) licensed content should be developed and delivered to an internal training lead, who learned about and was provided with all licensed PSM training standards – in order to develop EPC-UK’s own specific content and deliver the 12-hour modular course to all operations.

The PSMO training was then rolled out to the entire upper tier site workforce (including operators, maintenance technicians and long-term contractors) and this allowed all employees to get a common level of understanding and knowledge of what process safety is all about and how it could affect them on a daily basis. PSMO delivery continues to date.

A safe company is a profitable company. Cogent Skills involvement with EPC-UK has contributed to us performing as a safer and more sustainable organisation that is able to demonstrate compliance in accordance with COMAH and HSE regulations. By devising training modules that encourage engagement, confidence, communication, and improved morale, Cogent has worked with EPC-UK to achieve better team understanding; not only in terms of what process safety is, but also with regard to what individuals’ responsibilities are, from those on the quarry top or factory floor, to members of the senior management team, and every person’s role in between.

Ben Williams
Managing Director, EPC-UK

The impact

Prior to the introduction of the PSM programme training in 2011, EPC-Groupe conducted a Europe-wide safety culture survey. In 2015, following initial introduction of the PSM programme training across UK sites, the same safety culture survey was re-run and 91% of UK employee respondents identified the fact that there had been a significant increase of safety culture and understanding.

With the ultimate aim of reducing the risk of a major accident hazard, the PSM training influenced a collaborative development of EPC-UK’s Stop-Work Initiative and in addition to this policy the business has seen the following positive impacts to its operations:

  • An empowered and supported workforce – focused on safety, from the top down
  • Created a new level of trust in the business
  • Enhanced stakeholder reassurance – regarding commitment to safety
  • Fewer production stoppages
  • Improved culture, understanding and safer working environment – due to a stronger awareness of process safety hazards throughout the organisation
  • A higher standard of workforce psychological safety – encouraging a culture of “looking out for each other” across every level of the organisation
  • Increased understanding and awareness of Process Safety Management
  • Internal licensed trainer adopted training content and collaborated with leaders to produce a training package specific to the business requirements – designed to embed process safety  
  • Reduction in process safety related incidents
  • Updated COMAH regulatory competence and compliance framework of Process Safety Management procedures have delivered an improved, updated and compliant safety report – to adhere to regulatory requirements.
  • Workforce engagement and acceptance.

The Timeline

10 senior leaders undertook Process Safety Leadership, for senior executives and board members of hazardous facilities training.

24 managers trained in Process Safety Management Foundations.

1 internal trainer undertook the Process Safety Management for Operations, to develop internal training under license operations for maintenance front line staff.

2014 – to date
On an ongoing basis, all EPC-UK’s workforce from multiple sites trained internally on the Process Safety Management for Operations course under license, to continuously develop safety awareness and inclusion of all maintenance front line staff.

Lessons Learned

To achieve progressive operational success within hazardous working environments, senior leadership involvement and understanding is imperative to enhance individuals’ wellbeing and improve staff morale.

By working together to create modules for delivery that demonstrate how factors such as accidental shutdown, human error incidents and personal injury to employees and the public can occur, such events are consequently reduced, making business safer and more efficient.

Ben Williams
Managing Director, EPC-UK

EPC-UK’s lessons learned messages for High Hazard industry peers include:

  • A focus on Process Safety Management training can create a new level of trust in a high hazard business and an improved standard of psychological safety
  • For process safety to be successful, it’s essential to have a ‘Process Safety Champion’ at Board level
  • If the Managing Director supports and leads the initiative, this facilitates full employee engagement and awareness at all levels within the business
  • Employee participation is key to reducing incidents – which can lead to a reduction in process safety related incidents and fewer production stoppages.
  • The PSM training, which is reflected in EPC-UK’s corporate SPIRIT values of ‘Safety, Passion, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork,’ has helped demonstrate its commitment to PSM with all stakeholders
  • A Stop Work Authority Initiative was collaboratively developed having been influenced by PSM strategies. It’s a companywide policy that gives every person the unquestioned authority to stop work, should they consider their safety, or that of others, to be at risk.

EPC-UK – on working with Cogent Skills

A message from EPC-UK’s leadership to high hazard industry peers:

The confidence our teams have developed through Cogent Skills’ training modules has led to our process safety training courses becoming an ongoing programme of development.

Using Cogent’s expertise and materials, we have been able to successfully run refresher training sessions that ensure content is always relevant and fresh and keeps the importance of safety awareness at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Cogent Skills has the expertise in place to develop training modules that can fully support EPC-UK’s own Process Safety Management Operating Model, which prioritises Process Safety Leadership and Culture; Risk Identification and Assessment; Risk Management and Performance Review and Improvement.

By making process safety training key within our company, we’re building on workforce skillsets and improving competencies and compliance and our focus on employee safety enables us to retain, motivate and progress our valued team, as well as maintain awareness of safety prioritisation industry wide.

To achieve progressive operational success within hazardous working environments, senior leadership involvement and understanding is imperative to enhance individuals’ wellbeing and improve staff morale.

By working together to create modules for delivery that demonstrate how factors such as accidental shutdown, human error incidents and personal injury to employees and the public can occur, such events are consequently reduced, making business safer and more efficient.

Bob Woolley
Head of Safety Health Environment & Quality, EPC-UK

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