Since the gaps introduced by latent errors aren’t obvious or visible, they’re a blind risk. They lie dormant, like a beartrap in the undergrowth of a forest until someone inadvertently steps on it.
Disasters like Piper Alpha, Longford, Texas City, Macondo, and Bhopal are burned into our collective conscience. In each case, latent errors were a contributing factor.
Things we accept as part of project closeout or when we make physical changes to the plant may be introducing latent errors at our facilities. Do you have a complete and validated asset registry? Are your critical drawings such as P&IDs and single line diagrams up-to-date? Have you done a criticality assessment of your assets? Can you find the information when you need it? Can you trust it?
Availability, completeness, accuracy and consistency of process safety information seems to be a major challenge for most companies. I was recently struck by the number of citations that OSHA issues for non-compliance. Consistently, the top 4 areas are:
- Equipment Integrity
- Process Safety Information
- Management of Change
- Actions and Recommendations coming out of Process Hazard Analysis
As we go about designing, maintaining, and operating our plants, we are constantly faced with decisions. What information should we capture and when should we capture it? How should we make it available and who needs access to it? How can we be sure it’s up to date, consistent, and complete?
As and industry and as individuals, we have a moral responsibility to protect human life and wellbeing and to be good stewards of our environment. Next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself – Are you introducing a latent error, or are you exposing a blind risk and managing it properly?
Mitigating Blind Risk
I know overcoming these challenges isn’t easy. It takes a concerted effort involving standards, processes, technology, information management, and governance. But here are a few things to consider:
- Ensure that there is a documented asset and process safety information management strategy in place
- Adopt industry standards such as ISO 55000 and CFIHOS to reduce personal and company bias.
- Ensure there is governance and ownership in place for managing asset and process safety information
- Ensure the completeness and validity of your asset register
- Establish as minimum baseline requirement for data quality and measure it against adopted standards
- Execute frequent data quality audits or gap assessments to discover latent errors
- Track and execute corrective actions coming from audits
Contact us for more information on how we can help you mitigate the risk of latent errors in asset data and process safety information.