Sphera’s survey shines light on technology’s ability to increase safety and improve operational risk management

Source: press release, 20 November 2019

In Sphera’s Process Safety Management/Operational Risk Management survey, industry leaders express need for enterprise systems that reflect and predict cumulative risks
In Sphera’s Process Safety Management/Operational Risk Management survey, industry leaders express need for enterprise systems that reflect and predict cumulative risks (illustration: Sphera)

Sphera, the largest global provider of Integrated Risk Management (IRM) software and information services, has released the latest results of its annual Process Safety Management/Operational Risk Management survey. Part Two of the 2019 report exposes the need for IRM technology to support planning so companies can implement best practices and significantly increase safety while reducing operational risk in the hazardous industries.

Part One, released in August, identified executive-level priority for their organisation, but the survey reveals they admit to not doing enough to proactively manage Process Safety consistently. Respondents revealed that 84% of industry leaders surveyed said they believe that safety is part of corporate value structures and supported by senior management. Part Two confirms digitalisation has become the new norm, but despite good intentions, improvements in industry regulation and investment in technology, these risks can only be addressed if systems are integrated, which produces a holistic view of a company’s risk profile.

In line with last year’s responses, only 40% agree that organisations proactively manage process safety, while 73% say companies are not actively managing risk or driving PSM through the planning process. Perhaps most surprisingly, respondents revealed that, on average, only 66% of monthly safety-critical maintenance is achieved and only one-quarter (23%) believe that full plan attainment is possible.

“If companies routinely only complete two-thirds of their planned safety-critical tasks, companies leave themselves exposed to risk,” says Simon Jones, Sphera’s director of the Digital Solutions Group for Operational Risk. “Planning and scheduling rarely takes into account the full risk picture for asset health and associated maintenance activities. To increase attainment and deliver safe outcomes, companies need to get smarter in the way they manage and maintain the critical barriers and safeguards on their assets.”

Respondents reinforced a need for technology and called for organisations to employ IRM systems to support planning. Today, only 10% of companies have deployed integrated digital solutions, while 75% say they are operating with siloed data.

Scott Lehmann, Sphera’s vice president of product management for Operational Risk Management explains that, “Siloed systems are the bane of a true digital transformation program. It’s not just a technical challenge—though don’t underestimate that—it’s an organisational one. Companies want integrated systems that can reflect, predict, and share a true picture of the ‘operational reality’. To achieve this, forward-thinking firms are moving toward integrated platform-based systems to analyse data across operations to capture cumulative risk, whilst presenting it in a manner that is practical and tangible for people to do something with it – i.e. actionable insight.”

Lehmann adds, “In many ways, that’s the holy grail: knowing the cumulative risk across an organisation is what unlocks truly effective planning, prioritisation, and risk management.”

Once companies achieve greater risk visibility through data, industry leaders are hopeful ORM and PSM risks will be considered in the planning and prioritisation process and will no longer be addressed in isolation. This will help form an integrated strategy that will finally help bridge the gaps.

Methodology and participants
The 2019 Sphera OR/PSM Survey was conducted online between April 3 and June 6, 2019. A record 230 people took part in this year’s survey, of whom 31% said they have worked in Process Safety, asset integrity and Operational Risk for more than 15 years. Nearly half (45%) said they work in the oil and gas industry, 18% in the petrochemicals industry and 9% in manufacturing. More than a third of the respondents (38%) said they work at companies with more than 10,000 employees, and about half (45%) said their company operates more than 25 plants. Additionally, a third of respondents (30%) said they hail from North America while 23% said the Middle East, 18% Asia and 11% Europe.