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HSE Chair tells UK process industries to raise their game

03 April 2012

At a special conference on the 15 March 2012, UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Chair Judith Hackitt CBE emphasised the critical role of process safety management to an audience of senior executives and board members from across the high hazard process industries.

HSE Chair Dame Judith Hackitt
HSE Chair Dame Judith Hackitt

The conference, Raising the bar on Process Safety, was the launch platform for the sector’s National Strategy for Process Safety Management (PSM), which is designed to raise competence and knowledge levels across the sector, not least at senior management level.

While lauding those involved in the PSM initiative, principally organisers Cogent, the PSM Project Board and the National Skills Academy Process Industries, Hackitt warned that time was running out for the sector, and that its reputation and standing with the public was at serious risk. She queried why it had taken the sector seven years to launch the initiative, when it had been a recommendation of the HSE report on the Buncefield accident in December 2005.

Hackitt questioned the rate of improvement in the process sector generally, which includes 1,000 sites defined as high-risk under the COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) regulations, and where accidents continue to occur. She pointed out that only 65 companies had been involved in the initiative, and that although it was due to be rolled out to another 65 in the coming months, hundreds of (mainly smaller) companies would likely slip under the radar.

“Every year in HSE we see reports of 100 loss of containment incidents of which about half have potential to be serious incidents,” she said.

“We need to see more and we need to see it quickly. The challenge you face is a big one with a lot of catching up to be done, and many elements to be tackled. I don’t think time is on your side. 

“You were all very lucky that Buncefield did not result in fatalities. This and the many other incidents that continue to take place on a constant basis make this issue absolutely fundamental for the reputation and survival of your business.”

HazardEx will be running an in-depth interview with Hackitt from the event in the near future.

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