PSM Study Reveals Concerning Lack of Lab Safety Culture

Lab WorkersWe recently came across an unsettling report that bears sharing. The source is a Petrotechnics survey conducted in the summer of 2017 on process safety and risk management (PSM). Over 200 senior hydrocarbon-industry leaders with responsibility for process safety, asset integrity and operational risk management, responded with a frank assessment of the safety culture—or lack thereof—within their organizations.

While these insights are taken specifically from the chemical processing industry, we think the significant findings could help remind us all of the importance of supporting lab safety.

Aligning Goals with Plans and Procedures

Much of what concerned us with this report was a significant gap between goals stated in various companies’ literature and the presence of actual plans and procedures that would fulfill those goals in their practices.

While almost all companies had goals related to risk reduction and supporting safety performance, 61% of those surveyed believe their organizations do not have sufficient safety indicators or safety performance measurements. There was also concern expressed by 54% of respondents that PSM is not incorporated into programs and strategies for operational excellence. Specifically, those respondents felt that there was a lack of operative, real-time solutions designed to monitor and manage divergences from expectations or performance standards.

Furthermore, the greatest source of resistance to PSM implementation listed was organizational culture, with an overwhelming 86% listing this as an issue. Fully three quarters of respondents listed maintenance and internal procedures as other hindrances to a fully functioning PSM environment.

Speaking the Truth about PSM Issues

The anonymously conducted survey allowed respondents to freely express their opinions. Several anonymous responses indicated that companies often value productivity over safety.

Specific quotes are telling:

“Process safety is specialized knowledge, not typically understood by operations and maintenance, leading to implementation gaps.”

 “Production takes priority over safety, which often leads to shortcuts and safety incidents, despite corporate safety policies.”

 “Corporate lip service to PSM policies that are not backed up with effective and efficient planned preventative maintenance.”

Particularly significant was that only 6% of respondents indicated that critical safety maintenance was up to date. Yikes.

Making Lab Safety a Priority at All Levels

This study hits close to home. We’ve all seen it before: People lose sight of the importance of planned safety procedures that are regularly tested and implemented. They instead focus on the end result, forgetting the importance of working within lab safety parameters.

As labs are renovated or expanded, project goals evolve, and managers can easily forget the importance of purchasing equipment and lab furniture that will reduce safety risks. Attention that should be paid to the enhancement of lab safety becomes focused elsewhere, and impactful practices and products are overlooked.

Stocking up on safety gear, maintaining a clean and organized space, minimizing noise to ensure clear communication, battling vibration to protect lab equipment—these details are still critical to lab safety.

Adopting a “safety first” mentality is integral and backed by the overwhelming consensus of those 86% responders who believe that an organization’s culture has the greatest impact on PSM. When you’re running a busy lab, and must meet budget and production quotas, it can be difficult to balance safety into the equation. We can help you get on your way to a lab that’s designed with safety in mind, just give us a call.