Report Reveals Growing Gap Between Process Safety Goals and Reality

Data from Sphera’s latest Safety Report reveals a persistent gap between the intent and reality of process safety management, while environmental, social, and governance concerns are a growing consideration for process-safety management and operational-risk management professionals.

Source: Sphera

While there has been continued expansion of corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts and most companies have embraced safety as part of their corporate culture, there are still shortcomings to address in improving process-safety performance, Sphera’s new 2022 Safety Report reveals.

Sphera, a global provider of ESG performance and risk-management software, data, and consulting services, surveyed 280 process-safety management (PSM) and operational-risk management (ORM) professionals from around the world on the current state of PSM and ORM. Respondents to the survey came from several global industries, such as manufacturing, oil and gas, chemicals/petrochemicals, energy, construction, and engineering.

Results show that 69% of respondents indicate there is a gap between their companies’ process-safety goals and process safety as they experience it. This is a significant increase from the 2021 survey, in which 21% of respondents reported a gap between safety intent and the reality of what happens. The finding that only 67% of safety-critical maintenance is achieved in a typical month illustrates the disconnect between intent and actuality.

“The 2022 Safety Report reveals a persistent gap between process-safety goals and reality, and the disconnect between awareness and adoption of technology solutions is an additional hurdle for organizations to overcome,” said Scott Lehmann, Sphera’s vice president of product management for operational risk management. “Technology that provides real-time data and actionable risk assessments can help connect the dots across the organization to reduce the gap and drive safety improvement efforts. Relying on a range of tools for compliance and improved, predictive decision-making can help businesses keep their people safe and operations productive.”

Persistent challenges, such as limited resources and limited budgets, could, at least partially, account for the widening gap. Trends such as the Great Resignation also could be a contributing factor because process safety may be compromised when employees leave and their expertise is lost.

The top three challenges identified by respondents as hindering effective PSM are management challenges (46%), training and competency (45%), and insufficient engagement of the front lines to improve awareness (34%). Respondents indicated that the top three key safety performance drivers are reducing operational and major accident hazard risk exposure (66%), operational excellence (57%), and regulatory compliance (49%).

The adoption rate of technology solutions is identified as a particular area for improvement in the Safety Report. Virtually all respondents (96%) said that technology enables effective PSM and ORM. Adoption rates don’t yet reflect the perceived value, however, with only 11% of respondents indicating that their company uses the full range of technology solutions available. A number of factors, such as lower maturity levels and the challenges involved with connecting disparate systems and data, could be attributed to this slow rate of adoption.

PSM and ORM play a vital role in a company’s ESG performance. Within the context of the ESG framework, PSM is about keeping people—and the communities in which businesses operate—safe. For the first time in the safety survey, PSM and ORM professionals were asked where PSM fits within their company’s ESG program. While an overwhelming majority (87%) said PSM does fit into their company’s ESG efforts, there is some slight division over which aspect of ESG—environment, social, or governance—applies most clearly to their PSM program. When asked which impact scenarios are the most concerning for their business, however, 71% of respondents said environmental impact scenarios.

“It has become increasingly clear that ESG is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have,” said Paul Marushka, Sphera’s CEO and president. “A company’s risk mitigation efforts are intrinsically tied to ESG performance, and operationalizing ESG across the organization will drive informed decision-making and help PSM and ORM professionals manage and reduce ESG risk.”

Find Sphera’s 2022 Safety Report here.