Recently finished an interesting project working with the senior management of a fine chemicals company as they built a shared view of how best to address the whole area of process safety management, the processes, roles and responsibilities and the development of a supportive culture.  The work was made the more interesting by the client’s recent acquisition of a relatively large European competitor.  Hence the debate was enlivened by very different histories, cultures and perspectives among the team.  A pivotal discussion surrounded the role of company standards – as guidance for managers working in very different environments across the world, or as mandatory requirements to underpin a uniform approach?  Outcome oriented or input oriented? Some managers work in Europe with automated plant, operators with decades of experience, supported by technically sophisticated engineers.  Others work in other parts of the world with older plant, largely manual operation and monitoring, with less experienced operators.  The cultural implications of local ownership of responsibility for process safety, coupled with a central audit function drove detailed debate about communication, management style and achieving ‘hearts and minds’ buy-in.  By using scenario events to focus our thinking we avoided the danger of vague generalities and that allow apparently comfortable consensus while skating over the difficult issues.

 

The outcome was a top-team and its safety specialists with a clear consensus view on their philosophy, ambitions for the future, next steps and the devolution of responsibility.

 

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