Media Attention Drives Safety Market Growth

April 16, 2014
As more media attention is given to manufacturing-related accidents, plant managers and CEOs worldwide are served a constant reminder that there is no place for complacency in addressing safety. But are the steps they're taking to address safety issues enough?

Every week I read about new safety-related incidents that have occurred. In the past week alone oil spills, gas pipeline explosions and chemical leaks were only some of the latest risks that have become realities. The mad scramble that follows in the aftermath usually involves assessments of the impact, damage limitation measures, clean-ups and thorough investigations, all of which can lead to a flurry of adverse effects, including heavy fines, controversy, loss of business, damage to the brand and negative media attention. As the emergency response is carried-out and the potential scale of the damage is realized, the question that must cross the minds of many would surely be: ‘Could all of this have been prevented?’.

The good news is that companies across the globe are implementing safety measures designed to help prevent incidents occurring. The global process safety system market grew by 10 percent in 2012 and is set to grow by a further 50 percent to $2.7billion by 2017, according to the IHS report on process safety systems. The high level of growth is expected as we expect even more will be done to safeguard facilities as global awareness and knowledge of safety continues to rise.

Growth Drivers
Unfortunately it is the high-profile incidents that best stimulate growth. With growing media attention on such disastrous events and the subsequent damage, plant managers and CEOs worldwide are served a constant reminder that there is no place for complacency in addressing safety. The sheer scale of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010 drove many companies to assess their safety measures.

Another major driver of safety investment growth is the international standards IEC 61508 and IEC 61511. The standards promote a systematic approach to managing safety, providing guidelines for firms and regulators, and are widely accepted as good practice. The majority of end users in Europe and North America comply with the IEC or the similar ISA standards, and the level of compliance is growing across the globe. As the standards continue to evolve and new revisions are released, growth in process safety system investment is expected as companies assess and modify facilities accordingly. In practice this means that companies are reviewing potential hazards in their facilities and ensuring that sufficient safety instrumented functions performed by their SIS are implemented to effectively reduce the identified risks. An increase in such assessments results in greater expenditure on design and consultancy services, and subsequent modifications can require additional investment in both MRO and installation services and also SIS hardware and software.

Is Safety Growth Enough?
The growth of the process safety systems market indicates that companies are investing more to address safety, with growth significantly outstripping that of the control systems they operate alongside. However, while this shows continued positive developments for the industry, there are still many incidents occurring on a weekly basis. We’ve also seen great progression in automation technologies over recent years that have been widely adopted and enhanced operations, yet such progress is not as evident in safety, where there is a slower introduction and uptake of new technology.

Understandably, there is a great deal of investment targeted at improving operations and efficiencies, from which companies can realize benefits, such as reduced costs and improved output quality and volume. But do these gains outweigh the potential losses that can result from overlooking safety? It is important to keep safety and its improvement at the front of peoples’ minds, rather than it simply being considered a legislation-driven periodic business expense. Success, typically perceived and measured in terms of revenues, costs and output, can also be achieved with the correct implementation of safety; reducing the number of incidents per year would be a good place to start!

Even though many companies have made significant strides toward this start, some of those same companies are still failing to meet a minimum standard for safety. Even though an investment may have been made in integrating a safety system into the plant, this in itself doesn’t remove the risk. There is an onus on the end user to make an on-going investment in servicing of equipment and training to help prevent further catastrophes.

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