According to Modalpoint, one of the “Top 10 Oil and Gas Business Drivers for 2016” will be in the downstream sector. With increased supply driving the downstream industry, certain refineries, petrochemical plants, petroleum products distributors, retail outlets and natural gas distribution companies should ensure EHS preparedness and response programs are up-to-date, effective, and compliant.
Plan deficiencies and non-compliance has proven to be expensive, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous to employees and the surrounding communities. As a result, maximizing the effectiveness of response plans and preparedness programs should be viewed as an investment in its workforce and the sustainability of the company, rather than as a subordinate expense.
By systematically analyzing operational risks and hazards, and aligning emergency plans with corresponding regulations, emergencies, crises, and targeted non-compliance fines can be minimized. The following are key preparedness and response tips to consider in the continual effort to improve a response planning program:
Data Accuracy: Establishing readily available up-to-date information has been proven to limit the duration of the emergency. The faster responders can locate, assess, access and implement accurate response actions to mitigate the emergency, the sooner an incident can be contained, and operations can be restored to “business as usual”.
Training: Training programs that include properly trained personnel, guidance, documentation, and oversight help ensure compliance with agency regulations. These regulatory requirements are designed to prevent harm and ensure adequate responses to protect the public. However, companies should not rely on regulatory training requirements and agency inspections to ensure training programs are sufficient. Companies should perform internal training to create corporate assurance, enhance EHS program value, improve operational safety, and ideally prevent harmful incidents from occurring.
Exercises: Realistic exercise scenarios can often highlight potential deficiencies and failures in the response plan and procedures, comprehension of individual roles and responsibilities, and partnership coordination. Identified deficiencies often reveal mitigation opportunities and valuable response knowledge.
Accessibility: Web-based response plans offer the greatest secured accessibility option for stakeholders, auditors, and inspectors while bolstering an entire emergency management program. With web-based technology and an Internet connection, response planning program information embedded with database driven software can be immediately and securely available without the “version confusion” typically found in other formats. Both paper-based plans and those housed on a company intranet are often out of date with multiple versions in various locations, potentially misinforming the response team.
Collaboration: Response planning program effectiveness can be optimized through effective interoperability: the ability for diverse organizations to work together for a greater good. Broadening the scope of response expertise can greatly benefit a facility by limiting the timeline of potentially escalating emergencies. Local agencies may provide additional response knowledge based on particular research, experiences, or occupational training in a particular area of study.
Auditing: Audits, whether conducted by in-house professionals or experienced consultants, can often reveal the same inadequacies and mitigation opportunities as regulatory agencies. Regrettably, most companies address response plan gaps only after an incident or a financially-impacting inspection occurs. With an objective eye, a gap analysis generated by an audit can bolster an response planning program and minimize the chance of impeding incidents or budget-crippling regulatory fines.
Mitigation: While all risks cannot not be averted, a facility can become better prepared for disasters if the procedural risk mitigation measures are implemented. Adverse conditions, unsafe activities, or ineffective responses pose risks to occupants, facilities, the environment, and/or communities. The risk assessment process can be used to identify situations that may lead to incidents or prolong a response. By eliminating or mitigating risks, companies can reduce the potential for emergency situations.
Best Practices Implementation: Applying best practices to a response planning program enables emergency managers to leverage past experiences as a means to improve planning efforts for future emergency response scenarios. By analyzing past incidents and responses, executing enhancements, and reinforcing lessons learned, companies will be better prepared than their historical counterparts.