PMA 2013 Process Safety in the Digital Age

Author / Editor: Stephan Dominik / Dipl.-Medienwirt (FH) Matthias Back

Have we learned our lesson? The emerge of digital plant automation has not only increased efficiency and versatility but also our vulnerability to cyber attacs – one of the major trends at this year’s PMA in Antwerp.

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While cyber security, intellectual property and the reliability of technology has become a major factor of consideration, Dr. Valentijn de Leeuw of ARC pointed out that a considerable number of accidents can still be directly traced back to human error: From Chernobyl to Piper Alpha poor judegement, failure of understanding or the deliberate breaking of rules contribute to accidents with costs in € 175 billion in Europe alone.

While several standards like the Seveso directive or the OSHA 1910 119 tried to address this issue, new studies made an astonishing finding: Fatal errors often happen despite an implemented safety management system, Dr. de Leeuw pointed out.

Bad News is Good News

The reason can be conflicting interests: It is hard or nearly impossible to consider both technological and safety issues at the same time, he explained. A trained safety staff with the right to make and adapt decisions within the process can help to overcome this problem.

But all these considerations are worthless, unless we manage to put up a culture of awareness, that respects bad news for what they are, Dr. de Leeuw explained. Even trained professionals sometimes fall for blind spots and believe that because a conclusion seems right, all evidents that support it must be right to.

You will find further information about this years Process Management Academy on our landingpage.