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Safe Start-Up Of Industrial Operations Post Covid-19 – How Can Firms Minimize Risks?

On May 7, 2020 a gas leak occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant in Vizag, India killing 13 and causing over a 1000 people to fall sick due to exposure to the gas, as the vapour cloud covered an area of over two miles. The plant was being re-opened following the national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Just the day before on May 6, 2020 an explosion at a plastics factory in Naples, Italy killed one and injured two more people. The factory restarted operations on May 4th and was operating with a reduced workforce. As industries around the world get ready to restart operations, following safe start-up practices is crucial to prevent accidents and incidents. According to the Center for Chemical Process Safety, process safety incidents occur five times more often during start-up than during normal operations. With the risk of safety incidents being high during start-up even in normal times, restarting or ramping up operations with the added complication of minimising coronavirus infections is a tall order. Digital technology has a valuable role to play in mitigating risks to workers, assets and the environment.

Vendors such as Cority, Enablon, TenForce and VisiumKMS offer process safety management (PSM) software, which includes modules such as management of change, process hazard analysis, pre-start-up safety review and permit system for hot work – all essential elements to track and manage during start-up. Given the importance of PSM, it comes as no surprise that PSM software accounts for the largest share of operational risk management software spend, with $994 million in 2019.

Barrier risk management software from vendors such as eVision, RiskPoynt and Sphera monitors the health of the barriers such as structural integrity and process containment in real-time and provides a visual representation so that operational leaders have a clear understanding of current risks and can prioritize activities to prevent major accident hazards. RiskPoynt has introduced its Covid-19 Pandemic Response Solution to help firms across a variety of industries get back to work safely. It has created specific Covid-19 related barriers based on industry guidance standards for maintaining safe operations post pandemic.

Service providers such as Accenture and AECOM have established a strong portfolio of digital capabilities targeted at handling complex plant turnaround management projects which are well-suited for ensuring safe start-up of operations post Covid-19. Accenture’s Digital Watchman offering integrates RFID technology, an industrial Wi-Fi network and analytics to provide near real-time information on worker location and movement. Similarly, AECOM uses UAVs for data collection, remote sensing technologies, augmented reality and virtual reality kits for inspections and training and laser scanning to create 3D models of facilities to simulate ‘what-if’ scenarios.

A wide variety of technology solutions are available to industrial firms to adapt to the new ways of starting and continuing operations. It is important that firms undertake a technology maturity assessment to assess the appetite and prioritize investment decisions.

To gain further insights about operational excellence technologies visit the Verdantix research website

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