Functional Safety as a part of Overall Safety

Functional Safety as a part of Overall Safety...:

The world has seen numerous technological advancement. These technological achievements may have made life easy but not completely safe. Even in this age, we still come across various accidents which have disastrous impact on mankind and environment.

Process Industry is no stranger to such accidents either. The industry has developed and has progressed by leaps and bounds, but still it is plagued with accidents and incidents.

Recently a part of refinery caught fire due to a blast and thousands of gallons of burning fuel spewed toxic gases in the air. At least 43 persons were injured and many reported temporary hearing loss because of the high intensity blast.

So the main question is, can we completely protect our industrial assets against any untoward incidents? The answer to this simple question is not easy. A disgruntled employee is the biggest factor as he/she might know all the backdoors that could be easily compromised to sabotage a facility. However, one can employ various protective safety systems, techniques and procedures in order to protect an installation against any incident and indirectly safeguarding the safety of society and environment at large.

The damages can be significantly controlled or minimized once we have safety instrumented system and its management is in place. Bear in mind that safety instrumented systems are not install and forget devices, they require care and maintenance just like your car!

Due to lack of clarity and awareness, there are lot of misconception and confusion regarding functional safety still prevalent in the industry. One of the most common misconception is that once a safety system is in place, it will always protect against all the possible hazards. And another being that these system are in place to protect the plant from any unplanned shutdown, guarding against any significant business interruption. Neither one of them is completely true. These systems have their requirements which are necessary to maintain if you want them to work when actually needed and basically guard against the hazards which may have severe environmental and safety impact. One should note that once a system is employed which would guard against these impacts, eventually you will have a system that will protect against the economic losses. However, in some cases though, these system are also specially employed where the economic impact is significant. This is relative and differs from organization to organization are driven by their policies & culture.

For these systems to function effectively and efficiently as in when required, it is imperative that they follow safety lifecycle as per IEC 61511. A safety life cycle consists of all necessary activities required during successful implementation of safety instrumented system right from the concept phase until the decommissioning of the system. By adhering to it, one can ensure that all the problems are assessed and system is designed and verified to check if it solves the problem it was designed for.

TUV India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of TUV NORD Group has developed services which go hand in hand to safety life cycle as per IEC 61511. These services are intended toward the end user who operate any processing facilities in Oil & Gas, Petrochemical, Pharmaceutical, Non-nuclear power generation, Food & Beverage etc. TUV India is also involved in training programs which are essential to raise the awareness level of the people directly or indirectly related to safety.

There is an old saying that if you think safety is expensive, try an accident. Accidents can cost a fortune and damage the reputation. We have many examples to learn from. Moreover these accidents also cause injury to people in some cases even death and affect environment adversely. Hence it is a moral, social and legal responsibility to ensure that people and environment are at kept from harm’s way. And one way to achieve this by implementing functional safety!

About The Author

Ajinkya PatilAssistant Manager - Product Certification
TUV India Pvt Ltd