Those operating in the process world should be familiar with the concept of Functional Safety Management (FSM) and the need to have well defined processes and procedures in place. Otherwise, how else will they be able to ensure that their Safety Instrumented System (SIS) and plant are operating safely?
Functional Safety Management is really no different from normal management, which is to assess, plan, execute, monitor, and/or revise. Or is it? The key difference is that in the world of safety, getting something wrong can have disastrous consequences, in terms of the potential for loss of life, destruction of assets/property, environmental impacts, financial loss, and detrimental company image.
Having a well-defined and structured set of policies and procedures that comply with IEC 61511-1 Clause 5 is essential to ensuring that the process applied to designing & developing a SIS reduces (as far as possible) the likelihood of introducing systematic faults – mitigating the human factor if you like. Along with a well-defined set of processes and procedures, is the relevance of competency, which is where a number of issues occur. What is competency at the end of the day? Most will say it’s a blend of academic achievement and experience. Academic achievement usually indicates a level of intellect, in terms of the ability to attain a certain level of knowledge and understanding in a specific subject and/or field of study. Experience, on the other hand, relates more to the practical and real-world application of knowledge that is gained over time and usually at the expense of learning from mistakes (not necessarily a bad thing). Again, from the Functional Safety aspect, competency relates to the ability of personnel to perform the relevant tasks for the appropriate phase of the safety lifecycle they are responsible for (i.e. being able to conduct a HAZOP, LOPA, etc.). Training becomes a pivotal focus for achieving and sustaining competency.
This, therefore, also translates into creating good processes and procedures as part of the FSM program, which requires collaboration from a number of disciplines within the company. Whether you are an End User or Engineering Company, poor competency will lead to poorly defined or deficient processes and procedures that could lead to systematic issues and/or short cuts to be taken during verification and validation, creating the potential for dangerous faults to be introduced and to go undetected.
The purpose of the IEC 61511 standard is to define best practices in a non-prescriptive manner that enhances the overall performance, as well as the safety integrity, of a SIS. It defines the “what” and not the “how.” Therefore the “what” needs to translate into a FSM program that provides clear, precise, succinct, and unambiguous processes and procedures that can be followed by the engineering, operations, and maintenance personnel. The key goal is to provide a safe and efficient working environment and cost effective system. Here at exida we’ve seen both good and bad FSM implementations, therefore we know and understand what a good FSM program entails.
So, just how good is your Functional Safety Management program?