Digital Health and Safety

Dec 24, 2020 18:25:46 PM

Botan Osman, Restrata, UK, looks at how cloud-based technology will revolutionise the implementation of health, safety and environment policies in the downstream sector.

Complexity is standard when it comes to the business of hydrocarbons and it drives the continual challenge of achieving excellence in health, safety and the environment (HSE) while delivering operational efficiencies. As such, organisations need to constantly identify potential opportunities for improvement. In this day and age, technology can be a major strategic advantage if aligned and adopted strategically across the organisation. As in many other industries, digital transformation has become increasingly important, with investment growing across multiple areas of the industry. The pressure is on for oil and gas executives to chart their digital strategies, enabling them to continually transform their business and industry, increase operational efficiencies and most importantly improve safety, driving towards goal zero.

In January 2016, the International Labour Organization released a report in which it stated that “The challenge for the oil and gas industry is to be able to quickly and effectively respond to potentially vast and serious incidents.”1 This remains as true today as it was then.

As competition from renewable energies in the long-term threatens to disrupt the hydrocarbon industry, and in the current climate of oil at US$60/bbl or less, companies in the energy sector need to accelerate their efforts to adopt comprehensive digital technologies to improve the financial and operational efficiencies required to compete, while ensuring the protection of their people, environment, assets and reputation.

According to Strategy&, part of the PwC network, the embracing of digital technologies in the up stream sector alone could generate savings of some US$100 billion by 2025.2 These results could be echoed in downstream industries. Investment in a digital first strategy will engender a more positive and stable outlook for the industry and consumers, as costs are reduced and safety is increased.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is here to stay and change the way we live, work and operate. The Internet of Things (IoT) or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) provides connectivity to physical devices and everyday objects. It is one of the pillars of this r evolution which acts as the fabric of intelligence when combined with other technologies.

The combined development of the IoT, big data, the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality, has enabled incredible advances for companies that have successfully adopted these technologies, to manage and enable their operations. However, the areas of safety and resilience have arguably not seen the same level of digital adoption as their counterparts. Therefore the opportunity for improvement and disruption is significant.

Advancements in sensor technologies, for instance, has already begun to take effect in both operational maintenance and the monitoring of dangerous environments, enabling live monitoring of hazardous conditions which could provide an early warning system for leaks or safety breaches. Combining this with the ability to locate people across one or more sites gives the power to potentially save lives – and this is mer ely the tip of the iceberg of what is achievable.

HSE under scrutiny

The safety of people, as sets and the environment is now under more scrutiny than ever and, as a result, has become a growing topic of discussion for the investment community. According to The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, the number of fatalities decreased from 50 in 2016 t o 33 in 2017. This fall occurred during a time when the number of reported work hours increased by 4%. While the number of fatalities were down, the number of fatal incidents increased from 29 in 2016 t o 30 in 2017. There is clear room for improvement in this area and work must be done to achieve goal zero.

Downstream companies’ mission to refine, process and distribute is enabled by companies in the resilience sector which effectively manage safety and security risks. Managing resilience, however, needs to be digitised to ensure that awareness, management and response stays current by taking advantage of an increasingly connected industrial world.

24/7 Global Operations Command Centres (GOCCs) are an example of efforts made to minimise the time from incident to response, and maximise the information to make decisions. Experience dealing with challenging incidents – and the value of information at these most critical moments – resulted in the Restrata Platform, which was designed and built to manage incidents and emergencies on behalf of clients around the world.
With inherent risks in this growing industry, there is an obvious requirement to improve safety, security, and peace of mind.

Global view, local control, real-time, seamless access

The downstream environment, as with all industrial environments, poses countless risks due to the work requiring heavy machinery and highly combustible toxic products. A solution is needed that can deliver a global view with local control, seamless and real-time access, creating complete visibility of people, enabling organisations to save lives and to protect the industry’s reputation.

With oil refining capacity due to achieve a new high this year, safety is paramount. In order to achieve zero harm, there is a need f or the understanding of cumulative risk in knowing how different components relating to risk on sit es are adding up. Without an overarching view of a sit e this is difficult t o achieve.

Restrata’s platform revolutionises personnel on board (POB) tracking, which remains largely manual or disconnected at present, offering operational efficiency – via a centralised system and complete visibility from global to site level – on customisable dashboards. Seamless global access provides the data required to make informed and immediate decisions when mustering or evacuating, in any emergency situation. This, coupled with a standardised approach across the business, mitigates many of the historic challenges related to employee safety.

Real-time technology provides the geolocation of people and assets which replaces the manual process of completing paper sheets and the lack of visibility of missing personnel. This technology means all employees can be located within a site at any given time, with visibility on each site floor within a metre’s radius, making response time in an evacuation situation immediate.

This invaluable information at the fingertips of designated personnel enables faster, more informed decisions across an organisation, from the headquarters through to the control centre and across all production sites. Readily available automated data captured from the platform can also achieve future risk mitigation in significant areas of danger or those areas requiring an improved emergency response. The technology ensures that there is no information gap both locally and globally, offering a unified operating picture.

Utilising modern technology saves lives and enhances operations. For example, reduced mustering hours can drive operational efficiencies and eliminate downtime, and – with an overarching view of all stages of personnel travelling – the control centre has the opportunity to call in additional contractors who have been delayed in transit, thereby increasing margins through reduced downtime.

Always connected

With many hydrocarbon plants and refineries situated in challenging environments, coverage of assets must extend further than just the onsite locations. Not only is the safety of assets important onsite, the protection of travelling personnel also falls under an organisation’s remit to ensure safe arrival in difficult locations. Cloud born and mobile ready, the software as a service (SaaS) Restrata Platform is a technology that enables employee visibility, whether on or off site, anywhere in the world.

Technology enhanced by the IoT enables mobile device applications to deliver pinpoint information to a control centre responsible for its travellers (and indeed all personnel), as and when arrival or departure is expected, ensuring peace of mind for all parties involved.

An organisation’s digital transformation strategy should consider the integration of their wider ecosystem of assets, data and 3rd party systems in sites across the globe. Migrating such data from systems, which many organisations may already have completed but are unable to utilise, will assist in planning for emergency situations or for the inevitable logistical issues travellers face, thereby allowing time for sourcing additional crew. Using existing infrastructure in a centralised manner reduces the initial capital investment which might be required for such transformation. Mobile and cloud-ready technology, such as the Restrata Platform, can manage thousands of sites and millions of people, boasting immediate connectivity with relatively low setup and training costs, allowing for achievable scalability.

Global adoption

The lack of global, consistent and stringent enforcements on regulations may have added to a slower uptake in digital transformation of safety and security in the industrial sector. However, there is evidence that a considered digital strategy will realise reductions in operating costs and improve efficiencies, enabling a shift from reactive solutions to proactive monitoring, through the effective use of data and analytics.

A combination of accessible subscription-based cloud technologies, low setup fees and minimal commitment, means costs can be offs et to a large extent through savings made by switching from traditional IT systems and services, and other related methods which are more resource-intensive.

There are still many untapped opportunities in safety and security management for the industrial sector with the recognition of how digital and sensory technologies can drive significant benefit t o a business’ bottom line.

To download a PDF version of the Digital Health and Safety Hydrocarbon Engineering article – please click here


1.‘Occupational safety and health and skills in the oil and gas industry operating in polar and subarctic climate zones of the northern hemisphere’, International Labour Organization,—ed_dialogue/— sector/documents/publication/wcms_438074.pdf2. BISCARDINI, G., RASMUSSEN, E., GEISSBAUER, R., and DEL MAESTRO, A., ‘Drilling for data: Digitizing upstream oil and gas’, Strategy&, Drilling-for-data.pdf


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