TSA talks competence

“Around 75% of the time, systems fail because they are designed or used incorrectly,” Peter Davidson, director – safety, commercial and projects, UKPIA, told a packed room of delegates at the Hilton Hotel in Coventry. “Both are caused by human error, and a lack of competence.”
Increasing competence across each business, so that industry standards can improve, was a focus of the event.
Peter argued that competence is not just about training, but also incorporates knowledge, experience and qualifications.
A joint industry group formed by UKPIA and the Cogent Sector Skills Council has been set up to share good practice, within a framework of understanding the needs of the industry and the expectations of regulators.
Peter explained: “We noticed a shortfall in clear and easy guidelines to enforce competency management systems, so we developed guidance to do it.”
The guidelines are focused on the downstream oil industry, although they are relevant to other sectors, and have been designed to avoid jargon and be easily understandable.
As the industry continues to learn and develop following the Buncefield disaster in 2005, the competency management system should be carefully designed to ensure its purpose is clearly defined, who should implement and how standards will be maintained.
A copy of the guidelines is available on the UKPIA website at
Stepping up 
“Things aren’t half as bad as you would think if you just listened to the media,” said Phil Scott, safety & risk policy manager, Chemical Industries Association, which covers oil refineries and related transportation.
He told the conference that guidance was available for the industry on process safety, but that embedding those guidelines into businesses needs a clearer strategy.
“This is not an irresponsible industry,” he stressed. “There are just some companies who need to step up a bit.  There is a tremendous will, and evidence that things are improving.”
Peter Baker, deputy director & head of Chemical Industries Division, Hazardous Installations Directorate, HSE, suggested that the way to deal with competence issues was “a bit like an AA meeting”. He said: “We have to accept the problem, identify the problem, and then take steps to solve the problem.”
In response to a question from Daniel Brain at Murco, Peter explained that in terms of significant incidents, the old chemical and downstream oil industry was above the rest ofEurope. He went on: “But in terms of overall performance we are significantly ahead – both in the way we measure performance and the way we talk about performance.”
Shane Wakefield, Chemical Industries Strategy Unit, Hazardous Installations Directorate, HSE, also talked about COMAH CA’s expectations of competency management systems.
While there was a focus on competency in management, the conference also acknowledged the pitfalls the tanks themselves can present, particularly as they get older.
Ageing issues
 David Burgess, of ABB Consulting, spoke about the challenge of ageing assets in the bulk liquid storage industry.  He told the audience that owners and users of equipment containing potentially hazardous fluids have a responsibility to the public and environment to minimise risk.
An ageing tank can be damaged in various ways, including wall thinning which can cause corrosion, the biggest cause of tank failures in 2009. By installing an integrity management system, assigning responsibility for tank maintenance and including regular inspection, potential failure scenarios can be identified.
Tank horrors
Dr Rene Hoyle, Axiom Engineering Associates, told the audience about a series of storage tank failures due to corrosion and fatigue. He was forced to confirm that none of the images he had used to illustrate his presentation had been photo-shopped, despite the horrors some depicted!
He used images to illustrate external corrosion, corrosion under insulation, underside corrosion, and internal pitting corrosion. Rene argued that a lack of understanding of mechanisms, lack of knowledge about the causes of corrosion, a lack of physical and financial resources to implement the necessary precautions, and perhaps even a lack of care, could all be reasons for the problems.
He said: “We have the technology to stop corrosion being an issue – you just need to use it!”
Oil fraud
John Spargo, director at Customs 558, gave delegates an insight into the problem of oil fraud. The issue lies in differentiating between the excise duty responsibility of the warehouse keeper and the customer.  Currently, a warehouse receiving imported oil is authored by HMRC in duty suspension, and the duty is charged when the product leaves the terminal. However, John discussed whether that duty point could be moved, to where the product is measured out of the refinery, or even to the filling station forecourt.
The delegates enjoyed a varied day of presentations and discussion, but the focus remained on improving the industry for all, particularly through competency issues. All the speakers provided a wealth of information that can be put into practice in business.
Peter Davidson said:  “As an industry, you need to use all the resources available to you – wherever they are.”