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This paper considers the different aspects of inherently safe design which could be applied to an offshore installation.

Abstract

The paper considers the different aspects of inherently safe design which could
be applied to an offshore installation. Ideally, hazards are eliminated by using
alternative methods of production but this is rarely possible so, in decreasing
order of importance, potential failures or weak points are designed out, the
severity of hazards is limited and finally, the consequences to personnel are
minimised by the inherent characteristics of the process and platform. It is
argued that simplicity and Inherent Safety are complementary. The platform which
does not leak or break down requires few people and, as such, is inherently
safe as it should not put anyone at risk.

This paper explores the concept of a simple inherently safer platform with
few personnel on board. It builds on earlier work (1) which argued that platforms
without extensive safety systems to control and mitigate hazards are safer as
both the incident frequency and personnel exposure are lower. It examines the
barriers to acceptance of this concept; from the culture of the industry which
perceives that extensive protection against hazards is essential; to the difficulties
in assuring that the equipment would not leak and the structure would not fail
during the platform’s lifetime. It questions how the current climate of cost
reduction and fast track projects needs to be changed to allow sufficient resources
to be directed into the refinement of the design and the quality of the plant
so that the chance of leakage was minimal. It argues that the redirection of
investment from protection into the inherent strength and reliability of the
plant would deliver platforms which were safer and more reliable. This could
give the incentive that the industry needs in order to change direction and
wholeheartedly adopt the concepts of inherent safety.

Introduction

An earlier, controversial paper (1) argued that the offshore industry may have
misdirected its investment in safety by placing undue emphasis on protection
rather than prevention. It also suggested that some safety systems may have
significant drawbacks as they can increase breaches of containment, congestion
and exposure of personnel to the hazards. It identified that inherently safer
design is the key to safer platforms; a view endorsed by other studies for the
UK Health and Safety Executive (2). This paper attempts to define inherently
safer design and examines the design process and culture to see how it can be
achieved.


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