I spent some time on a call with a new AllClear customer this morning. His site is in a unique situation, in that they have a functioning AllClear system, but they have not yet run their first drill with AllClear. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic required changes in site and organizational behavior before the site completed the management of change (MOC) activities to commission AllClear formally.

On one hand, he is thrilled that AllClear is working and that the site has a way to account for people, should it be necessary to muster. He is also pleased that the site can account for those entering the high hazard units, though his leadership has asked him not to enable this function yet without formal training and MOC. Needless to say, he is a bit disappointed, though the reality of a Global Pandemic puts all of this into perspective

But a very important question came up during the discussion. That is, “are we more likely to have an incident during this situation?” As we talked further, his clear answer is yes. I asked him to explore this thought further. Here are some of the issues we discussed:

  1. EHS and Emergency Response staffing levels are half of what they have been prior to COVID-19. Like many sites, they have asked either the Emergency response OR the PSM Manager to work on-site while the other works from home. This reduces the risk of exposure, which is good. But it also leaves the site with one less functional expert related to safety and process.
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  2. Startup and shutdown – it’s well documented that the vast majority of incidents occur during startup and shutdown activities. Unplanned outages can raise these percentages even higher. If your site is a batch processing site, supply chain delays can change startup and shutdown schedules, even more than during normal times.
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  3. Mindset – he mentioned several factors that appear to be raising concerns:
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    • Many people are working from home half of the time (or more). This means reacclimating to onsite work, which can require a lot of mental focus and agility.
    • Fatigue – those working on-site may be covering multiple responsibilities with reduced onsite staffing..
    • Focus – Factors at home may be reducing sleep (both quality and quantity). Children may be home from school. This can mean childcare concerns. Family members may be sick or hospitalized. This can cause anxiety and affect focus. The additional challenges that come along with economic and health uncertainty are likely to have an adverse effect on overall focus on the job.

As an anecdotal piece of evidence, this site had the first recordable in over 3 years this week.

We at inFRONT work exclusively with high hazard sites like chemical plants, refineries, paper mills, power generation facilities, etc. We know and understand the risks. If you’re not already an AllClear user, there isn’t a lot we can do to help in the areas listed above. But we care deeply about the people in our industry. Please take care to self-check before you clock in. If you are concerned, perhaps discuss with your supervisor or the safety person on-site. Consider taking an extra minute and reviewing the procedure for the task at hand. If you have any concerns about your health or well being, (mental or physical) consider calling in.

We know there are economic and career realities to be considered in all of this. But, as many of our customers’ safety messages say, “NOTHING is worth risking the wellbeing of you or others.”

Please stay safe and healthy!

John Barth
Senior Account Manager

 

 

What is ESG and why should EHS and Emergency Response professionals care?