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European downstream safety performance in 2020

02 November 2021

Concawe, the European downstream industry organisation, published its downstream oil industry safety performance report earlier this year. This article is based on selected sections of the report and provides comparisons with the industry’s safety performance over previous years.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

(Click here to view article in digital edition)
The 2020 annual report presents work-related personal injuries for the industry’s own employees and contractors and process safety performance indicators. Concawe began to compile Process Safety Performance Indicator (PSPI) data in 2009. These describe the number of Process Safety Events (PSE) expressed as unintended Loss of Primary Containment (LOPC). The 2020 PSE data represents 40 out of 42 of the Manufacturing companies and 96% of European refining capacity.
Concawe collects data and produces its annual report in order to provide member companies with a benchmark against which to compare their performance and so that they can determine the efficacy of their safety management systems, identify shortcomings, and take corrective actions. Data also serves to demonstrate that the responsible management of safety in the downstream oil industry results in a low level of accidents despite the hazards intrinsic to its operations, Concawe says.
The effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic on the industry in 2020, including staff reduction and fall in oil demand, can be seen immediately by the total work hours reported (543 million), which is around 12% lower in 2020 than in 2019.

There were two fatalities reported for 2020. During a fire inside a building in a non-production area of the refinery (not a process safety event), three people were injured and a member of the manufacturing staff was killed. An investigation into this incident is ongoing. Elsewhere, during road transport of crude oil, a truck left the road and rolled over, killing the driver.
These fatalities represent a fall in the annual number of fatalities from 2018 and 2019 – which had 10 and three fatalities respectively – however it matches the number of fatalities that occurred in both 2016 and 2017. In its report, Concawe says that the two fatalities in 2020 indicated that continued efforts are essential in order for the industry to achieve the target of zero fatalities.
Table 1 – Fatalities by sector 2011-2020

Lost workday injuries

A total of 476 Lost Workday Injuries (LWI) occurred in 2020 with 61% of these occurring in Manufacturing and 39% in Marketing. There was an overall decrease in the Lost Workday Injury Frequency (LWIF) when compared with 2019 with the number dropping from 0.97 LWI/Mh in 2019 to 0.88 LWI/Mh in 2020.

Concawe’s report highlights that there was little to no difference between the frequency of LWIs and fatalities (LTIF) due to the relatively small number of fatalities in 2020 compared to the 476 LWIs. Concawe says that the effective investigation of all incidents (near miss, minor and major) to obtain a full understanding of their root causes is therefore essential for the creation of a supportive safety culture and the fostering of the right organisational behaviours necessary to achieve zero incidents or accidents in operations.

There are a few categories which contribute to most reported LWIs. For example, Slips and Trips (same height), Struck by and Cut, puncture, scrape together account for over 51% of all LWIs reported in 2020 (see Table 2).

As in previous years, Concawe also collected data on causal factors for each LWI which can be seen in Figure 1. These are described in alignment with API RP754 (2016) and multiple factors may be recorded per LWI. Causal factors were not available for 17% of LWI (79 LWI incidents) in 2020. Concawe notes that in many cases, the absence of causal factors reflects ongoing investigations. The most commonly reported causal factors across all LWI are Human Factors (31% of causal factors reported), Safe Work Practices & Procedures (12%), Risk Assessment (10%), Design (8%), Procedures (8%) and Knowledge and Skills (7%). There was little difference between the most frequently reported causal factors in some of the most commonly occurring incident categories.

Table 2 – Categories of LWIs in 2020

Performance trends in the last 10 years

The main benefit of tracking performance indicators is that they provide the opportunity to identify trends and patterns over a certain period of time. When comparing the statistics from 2011-2020, it can be seen that the two fatalities in 2020 equal the lowest number of annual fatalities recorded in the decade (2016 and 2017). Despite also being below the 10 year average, Concawe says that continuous focus on understanding causal factors and putting in place clearly defined preventative actions are required to achieve and sustain the objective of zero fatalities in both Manufacturing and Marketing.
Since the organisation moved to reporting fatalities against the same 16 categories as Lost Workday Injury in 2013, ‘Explosions or Burns’ (13 fatalities), ‘Road Accident’ (7 fatalities) and ‘Struck by’ (6 fatalities) have been the largest contributors to fatalities in the industry. Together, the three categories account for approximately 65% of the fatalities experienced in the industry since 2013.
Until 2013, Concawe compiled fatality data against broad categories that could change year to year. Expanding this to 16 distinct categories provided for greater transparency of cause and better benchmarking, but risked losing information on longer-term trends. However, by revisiting pre-2013 data, a reasonably consistent pattern can be seen.

Explosion or burns and Road Accidents were the most prevalent fatal incident categories recorded in the period 2009-2018. Road Accidents have declined as an overall percentage of all fatalities compared to 1998-2008 when they represented almost half of all fatalities. Concawe says this could be because of an increase in focus on Road Safety and the introduction of in-vehicle technology to help drivers.

Since Concawe began collecting LWI data against the 16 categories in 2013, a pattern has been emerging. As in fatalities, a limited number of categories contribute to most LWIs. In 2020, almost 73% of LWIs were as a result of’ Slips & Trips (same height)’, ‘Struck by’, ‘Cut, Puncture, Scrape’, ‘Overexertion, strain’, and ‘Caught in, under or between’. 2020 saw the largest increases in LWI for the categories of ‘Cut, puncture, scrape’ and ‘Struck by’. Concawe says that it is possible that the slight decrease in the proportion of these incidents is related to an increased situational awareness associated with COVID-19 risk management measures.

Concawe found no direct correlation between categories of LWI and fatalities in the period 2013-2020, however a focus on reducing LWI in the following areas may have the potential to address the causes of the majority of 15 fatalities recorded in the last three years. The areas are:
-  Process Safety to address Explosion, Burns related incidents
-  Operational safety focused on Working at Height
-  Road Accidents
Figure 3 shows the historical evolution of the main performance indicators over the past 10 years across all workers. While work practises were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic for much of 2020, no important changes in incident rates were recorded compared with previous years. With two fatal incidents in 2020, the Fatal Accident Rate (FAR) across all sectors is 0.37 in 2020, the lowest rate recorded since 2017 (0.34). The Lost Workday Injury Frequency (LWIF) of 0.88 in 2020 is lower than the three preceding years. Similarly, the All Incident Frequency (AIF) of 2020 at 1.52 is the lowest ever recorded. The Road Accident Rate (RAR) in 2020 is 0.41 and remains in line with rates recorded in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Process safety

From Concawe’s 2009 report onwards, the organisation’s Safety Management Group expanded the scope of industry wide safety performance indicators to address process safety, following the reporting guidelines that were developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The API recommends the adoption of Process Safety Performance Indicators (PSPI) in addition to personal safety performance indicators in order to better address the potential causes of major process safety incidents.
The Concawe Membership has since provided the number of Tier 1 and 2 Process Safety Events (PSE) for each Concawe report. In 2020, 40 companies and joint ventures submitted PSE data for the Manufacturing operations, one less than in 2019 and 21 submitted Marketing PSE data, two more than last year. Of the 21 companies that reported PSE across both Manufacturing and Marketing, three companies reported zero Tier 1 events, 3 different companies reported zero Tier 2 events and 4 companies reported zero Tier 1 and Tier 2 events.

The total number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 process safety events reported at Manufacturing sites where the higher process safety risks exist decreased in 2020 to 182 from 215 in 2019. The ratio of Tier 1 to Tier 2 Manufacturing process safety events in 2020 was 0.52 (62 Tier 1 and 120 Tier 2). This is lower than the 2019 ratio of 0.64 (92 Tier 1 and 144 Tier 2), but remains higher than the same ratios recoded in 2018 (0.41) and 2017 (0.32).

The number of Tier 1 PSEs resulting in LWIs was reported for the first time in 2019. In 2020, Five Tier 1 PSE (7.6% of Tier 1 PSE) resulted in LWI. The low proportion of total LWI related to Tier 1 events (1% of LWI), is encouraging and underlines the importance of high technical standards and strict procedures in process safety, which should never be viewed as a routine job, Concawe says. Of these five cases, two LWI were categorised as “Explosion or burns” (direct contact with hot released material), two were categorised as “Exposure, noise, chemical, biological, vibration” (direct contact with released material) and one as “Slips & Trips” (moving away from release). “Procedures” was cited as a causal factor in three of these incidents. The causal factors of Work Monitoring, Design, Risk Assessment and Human Factors, were also each cited.

Since 2017 Concawe has been collecting additional information regarding the circumstances of Tier 1 Process Safety Events. For the first time in 2020, Concawe collected additional information also for Tier 2 PSE.

Process Safety Events in 2020 most frequently occurred in storage facilities or transfer piping (24% of all Process Safety Events, 38% of Tier 1 PSE and 18% of Tier 2 PSE). This finding is in alignment with 2019, 2018 and 2017 data.

Equipment Reliability (allocated to 34% of events), Design (25%) and Human Factors (22%), are the most frequently cited causal factors across all Process Safety Events in 2020. For Tier 1 PSE the most frequently cited causal factors are Design (30%), Equipment Reliability 26%, Human Factors 18% and Procedures 18%. Equipment Reliability was cited most frequently as a causal factor of Tier 2 PSE (allocated to 38% of Tier 2 PSE), Design (22%), Human Factors (24%) and Procedures (18%) were also cited.

One interesting note is that the attribution of Design as a causal factor for Tier 1 events is the highest it has been over the last three years. The attribution of Fixed Equipment Inspection as a causal factor in Tier 1 events has progressively fallen from 22% in 2018, to 17% in 2019 and 12 % in 2020.
Concawe said that over time, the collection of this information across the industry is expected to result in an evaluation of the main factors contributing to process safety incidents, which will facilitate the development of approaches to address incident prevention.

Comparison with other sectors

Most of the safety performance indicators used in the oil industry, and particularly LWIF, have also been adopted in many other sectors so that meaningful comparisons are possible. The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) statistics concern the upstream oil industry covering oil and gas exploration and production activities. In comparison with IOGP statistics for European onshore, Concawe recorded a 0.37 fatality rate, a 0.88 lost workday injury frequency and 1.52 all injury frequency.

FAR is per 100 million work hours
LWIF and AIF per million work hours
*IOGP values are quoted as Lost Time Injury Rate (LTIR), the number of lost time injuries (fatalities + lost work day cases) incidents per 1,000,000 hours worked. As no fatalities were recorded in 2020, LTIR is equivalent to LWIF.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) reports that the rate of job-related non-fatal injuries and illnesses for the US Petroleum Refining sector remained at 0.4 per 100 full-time workers from 2018 to 2019 (Note: this figure does not refer to lost workdays; Note also that this figure is based upon 200,000 work hours as a denominator compared with 1,000,000 work hours used by Concawe. The Concawe 2019 LTIF expressed per 200,000 work hours is 0.19).
To read the Concawe’s ‘European downstream oil industry safety performance’ report in full, visit:

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