Skip to main content

Assuring safety

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Following the explosions and fires at the Buncefield oil storage depot near Hemel Hempstead, in the early hours of Sunday 11 December 2005, the UK regulator set a challenge to industry in two key areas:

  • Operating with high integrity organisations.
  • Delivering high performance through culture and leadership.

To address these challenges, UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) members signed a ‘Commitment to Process Safety’. The body responsible for addressing the Buncefield investigation recommendations, the Process Safety Leadership Group, also published the ‘Principles of Process Safety Leadership’ in 2009. These principles align closely to those of UKPIA’s commitment, recognising that industry leaders have a critical role to play in process safety management and improvement.

The safety of its workforce and the public, management of risk and striving for operational excellence in process safety are top priorities for UKPIA and its members. UKPIA has since developed a number of initiatives to address the recommendations of its process safety commitment and those of the process safety leadership group. Together, these form the Assuring Safety Sector Level Process Safety Strategy, launched in 2013. In addition, in order to promote safety and performance in the downstream oil and gas and other high potential hazard sectors, UKPIA introduced an associate scheme in early 2014. The scheme aims to widen the reach of the association’s pivotal work in process safety and transportation and ensure that developments, learnings and tools are shared across high hazard industries.

UKPIA: A strategy for sector level process safety

Process safety is managed by individual companies in order to meet their responsibilities under control of major accidents hazards (COMAH) regulations in the UK, which represent a condition to operate. On the other hand, sector level process safety is a framework by which individual companies can enhance and improve what they do at site level by engaging more effectively, for instance, with the regulator and other industry sectors. It is for this reason that UKPIA devised a sector level process safety strategy. The 'Assuring Safety' strategy comprises of three key principles: working together, encouraging excellence, and sharing and learning. Each of these principles is delivered through a network of initiatives, committees and fora. These forming elements are highly integrated and, together, they play an important role in collecting, analysing and sharing process safety information that, in turn, is brought together to identify and drive improvement through the development of guidance, tools and training standards.

Working together

Trade associations, such as UKPIA for the downstream oil industry, have a key role to play in encouraging dialogue among members. In order to do so, UKPIA’s committee structure is such that all aspects of the supply chain are considered, thus providing a consistent, coherent and consolidated approach to process safety.

UKPIA also actively collaborates with external groups and fora, such as the Energy Institute, COGENT and the chemical and downstream oil industry forum, to enhance process safety. This collaborative process chiefly refers to the production of guidance and training standards through collaboration among industry, regulator and unions. Cross collaboration ensures that deliverables are representative of all parties.

Encouraging excellence

Through targeted self-assessment and analysis of key areas of process safety, UKPIA encourages excellence and the development of relevant technical guidance. In addition, sector level process safety performance indicators (PSPIs) are in place to measure improvement (and that of other initiatives in place through sharing and learning and working together).


UKPIA believes that an effective sector level strategy must be based on:

  • A mechanism by which all relevant stakeholders can work collaboratively, identifying common priorities and goals and using available resources to close skills and knowledge gaps.
  • A mechanism by which one can look beyond good practice, identifying now what could go wrong in the future and proactively encouraging excellence in process safety performance.
  • A mechanism by which one can look outside of one's own industry sectors, gaining information on potential hazards that could affect the business, by sharing key information.
  • A mechanism by which we can measure one's success as a sector, along with the success of the initiatives one has in place.

'Assuring Safety' encompasses all of these mechanisms and provides a clear reference point for other sectors wishing to develop a similar strategy.

Written by Peter Davidson.

Adapted for the web by Emma McAleavey. For the full article, see the July issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):