Why it pays to pay more for safety (Part 1)

Quite apart from any moral considerations, skimping on safety can be an expensive mistake. The right safety instrumentation can deliver long-term security and a lower life-time cost.

If the Buncefield and Deepwater Horizon disasters prove anything, it’s that safety can never be taken for granted. Aside from the devastation they caused to their surrounding environments, both disasters also resulted in multi-million dollar damages for the operators involved.

While most industrial safety breaches have less spectacular and expensive consequences, they are sadly all too common. The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted 973 offences in 2013 and achieved 849 convictions. The firms in question collectively received fines of £12.9 million, equating to an average fine of £15,153.

When it comes to safety, fines are just one aspect of the costs of getting it wrong. Material damage, personal injury claims and the damage to a company’s reputation and subsequent sales can all send the price of poor safety sky high.

With companies facing considerable pressure to cut costs in every possible area, even areas as critical as safety find themselves subject to tightening budgets. Moreover, as the standards currently accepted as good practice are not actually legal requirements, there is an obvious temptation to skimp on safety systems. As can be seen from the potential consequences of failure mentioned above though, this is unlikely to prove a cost-effective strategy in the long run.

Higher standards

When it comes to specialised instrumentation and control equipment for safety applications, it’s true to say that you get what you pay for.

Compared to a normal process control loop that is operating most of the time, a safety system will typically kick in only when there is a problem. This sporadic operation means it’s quite possible for a transmitter or other component within the safety loop to malfunction without being detected. However, if it fails when needed then the consequences can be dire.

Making sure a safety system doesn’t fail demands good quality equipment that has been extensively tested and analysed. It may also mean building in a level of redundancy and a self-diagnostic capability far outstripping that required for non-critical systems. All this pushes up the price.

The second point is that safety is a niche application. A refinery might easily have 900 control loops distributed around the site but fewer than 100 safety loops. This more specialised market for safety equipment simply doesn’t benefit from the same economies of scale as the mass-market in standard controls.

Lifetime savings

Rather than looking for the cheapest option, it’s important to look for instruments and systems offering the optimum combination of security and cost-effectiveness over their lifetime. It’s a complex area, and users hoping to find the best solution can benefit from getting to grips with some of the terminology surrounding safety.

In our next blog, we’ll explain the parameters that define the overall effectiveness of a safety loop and will show why opting for higher integrity equipment can save money in the long term. Look out for it this time next week. If you can’t wait that long, then please email moreinstrumentation@gb.abb.com for the full article, ref. ‘The price of safety’.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: