10 Years After, Has Anything Been Learned from Deepwater Horizon?

Apr 30, 2020

[:en][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon incident on April 20th 2010. Even today, the Gulf Coast is still feeling the effects. In its latest estimates, BP is looking at a total loss of $65Bn USD, in settlements, fines and compensation. This latest estimate was published in the Maritime Executive, April 23rd, 2020.

Therefore, have we learned anything from Deepwater Horizon about the perils of cost-cutting and/or not properly testing high-risk, high-impact safety equipment? Apparently not, since we’re still seeing accidents occurring today. Fortunately, not on the scale of Deepwater Horizon but nonetheless still devastating to the families of those affected by accidents. According to the Department of Labor, 36 workers have died in explosion-related accidents from 2017 to 2019, in addition 10 died from burns and a further 21 asphyxiated, during the same period, whereby the companies involved received a citation for safety violations. This is just the number of fatalities reported, where companies were cited for safety violations, but this still totals 67 in all.

It never ceases to amaze me that some companies still do not appreciate the potential cost and scale the impact of an accident can have, not just in human terms, but also in terms of credibility, business loss and loss of reputation. The short-term mindset of cost cutting versus the longer-term safe running of the plant, still seems to occur. Even if companies claim they care about the safety of their employees and safe operation of their plants, the numbers of accidents and, moreover, fatalities, is still too high. In relative terms, the cost of an accident far outweighs the cost of implementing functional and process safety in plants. For the sake of investing a few hundred thousand dollars in preventative measures, companies are risking potentially millions of dollars in loss revenue, fines and litigation. In some cases, this has been enough to send a company into receivership and/or to file for Chapter 11.

Understanding and following RAGAGEP (Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practice), such as IEC61511, will help companies manage risk and reduce the likelihood of a serious accident. The more companies embrace and adopt this, the less likely we will see another Deepwater Horizon. If not, then it’s not a question of if but more a question of when.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][:zh][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]No! They are not Inherently Safe!

A collaborative robot is intended to work “collaboratively” with a person. i.e. share a common workspace. It is force and speed limited by design to minimize any potential hazard. Collaborative robots fit the application where the task cannot be easily or cost effectively automated. They are easy to deploy, program and repurpose. Collaborative robots are new to everyone including the standards agencies.

A hazard and risk assessment is required that assesses the robot and the environment that it is deployed in. Just as any other robot, things such as collisions, speed, type of end effector and worksite need to be evaluated. Collaborative robots have their own sorts of collisions and hazards. They may not be as severe, but they still exist.

This all comes down to risk and the amount of risk that you are willing to accept! The diagram below shows the high-level steps for doing a Hazard and Risk Assessment. When following the steps, if you assess the risk and find it to be acceptable (your companies acceptable risk norms) then you are done. No need to add any risk reduction.

The next best approach is to determine if protective measures other than a Safety Function can reduce the risk to an acceptable level. If not, then you must assign a SIL and implement a safety function that will provide the required risk reduction.

exida can effectively train your team to perform machine hazard and risk assessments to identify all possible hazards and estimate the risk for each hazard. Specifically, exida coaches you through the process of evaluating the risk, developing and implementing risk reduction options. exida can also educate your team in multiple approaches to SIL target selection. These are just some of the things exida does to ensure you are on the right path![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row] [:]

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