Analyzing the relationship between safety and reliability: Q&A Session

Webcast Q&A session with presenter Shon Isenhour, CMRP, Eruditio and The Institute at Patriot’s Point


Shon Isenhour, CMRP, Founding Partner, Eruditio and The Institute at Patriot's Point. A recent Plant Engineering webcast focused on how to leverage the success many sites have had with safety to improve maintenance and reliability. The webcast included a question and answer session afterward and additional reader Q&A follows. Answers below were provided by Shon Isenhour, CMRP, Founding Partner, Eruditio and The Institute at Patriot's Point. 

Q: Do you get involved with root cause analysis to evaluate safety incidents?

A: Eruditio does a lot of work both training and coaching students on proper root cause and many of these investigations are safety related or driven by a safety issue. These investigations can be more complex and require solid processes and tools.

Q: During cutbacks we spend less on maintenance but still do safety work orders. How do emphasize that maintenance of the equipment can be just as important?

A: Continue to demonstrate the connection between reliable equipment and lower safety incident rate from the study Ron Moore provided for us. Also try to have clear criteria for what is a safety work order so as to not flood the system with work that is not truly safety priority one. If you can reduce the amount of false safety work orders and other emergent repairs you will be able to create better planned and executable work. As you increase effectiveness and efficiency of work completion you will be able to accomplishing more of your traditional preventive and predictive maintenance while still meeting the safety needs.

Q: How do facilities and operations communicate the MTBF and MTTR for successful analysis?

They can be used and communicated many different ways depending on the goals of the organization. MTTR is typically only used by the maintenance and engineering staff since they most affect and control it, however MTBF can have a much broader audience because it like availability and OEE is affected by not only the maintenance and engineering staff but also groups like operations and sales. If the wrong products are sold or the equipment is operated outside of the design envelope than these can lead to lower MTBF. These other groups need to be aware of what effect they can have based on their decisions and then a business decision can be made. I would suggest the use of a single point lesson on MTBF and a graphical representation of performance numbers, industry standards and site goals for groups outside of maintenance and engineering.

Q: Who would specify the criteria? Who has the role of auditing the compliance to safability? What are the Phases of implementation-design to construction?

A: Safability is really a word meant to show the connection between reliability and safety. With that said both reliability and safety must be front and center for everyone if there is a hope for improvement. The roles of auditing compliance would be shared between maintenance and reliability engineering and your safety department with their corresponding goals and metrics. If you want to build in "safability" then you must start by designing and building elements that increase maintainability, reliability, and safety into the assets and then offer the training that supports these goals to all that will plan for, operate and maintain the equipment.

Q: How would you track and trend improvements to safety as it relates to improved equipment reliability?

A: Most facilities would watch two metrics on the maintenance and reliability side (% emergency work, % planned work) and compare that to your overall incident rate of whatever overall safety metric your site uses. You are looking for safety incidents to go down as planned work goes up and emergent work comes down.

Q: How would you track the potential cost savings of the elimination of safety incident/accidents with improved equipment reliability?

A: This is a debated topic but some companies know their average cost per safety incident and this can be used to show cost savings while others believe this is not an acceptable measure culturally because "you can't put a price on safety." You should chat with your site leadership and see what their thoughts on the matter are.

Q: The Problem Solving /CA that I have done exposes systemic and latent issues found in site processes that originate from Management - Management does not want to take ownership then limits finding the true and correct root cause of an issue. Any advice with this?

A: This is more common than one might think unfortunately and since management shapes, changes, and creates the culture and business processes many latent roots do have a component that points in their direction. My suggestion is that you should always try to understand the causes to that level and then look at your sphere of influence and the cost of implementation and step back up the tree one level at a time until you find an item on the causal chain that you can address at a level of cost that is justified and make that the first fix while you continue to do what you can to change the culture of the organization.

Q: Many times safety is compromised based on cost of repairs. Do you agree?

A: This does happen but I cannot say how often as I bet it varies substantially from site to site and company to company. I would say that we can help to prevent it by clearly articulating the life cycle cost and life cycle risk to the management to help them hopefully make the right decision. This means that we cannot just share the technologies and the features of the asset or the needed parts. We must show them the financial reasons that should drive them to not compromise safety and providing the funding for the correct repairs.


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