Manufacturers of specialty chemicals extensively investigate their processes with respect to potential risks and hazards and then design their facilities and equipment in order to ensure safety for workers, their community and the environment under both normal and unexpected operating conditions. Despite this significant investment in safety, accidents and near-miss incidents do still happen. Fortunately, the consequences are greatly minimized as the result of process safety programs.
There is, however, much that can be learned from the accidents – and near misses – that do happen. The best time to do so is shortly after the incident occurs so that the information remains very relevant for all involved.
A new animated incident re-creation service from Systran, Inc. is helping chemical manufacturers provide detailed training tools for employees so they can view, analyze and dissect incidents and near misses when such learning is most relevant and will have the greatest impact with respect to the prevention of similar incidents in the future.
“This service was initially developed at the request of a customer after seeing our 3D and modeling technology for the animation of process equipment,” notes David Hirsch, CEO of Systran.
The customer was looking for a short animated video based on an incident report that could be shown to employees within just a few weeks after the incident occurred. The Chemical Safety Board does develop animations of selected, major incidents, but it often takes months to more than a year before they are completed, which is well past the time that the event is on the minds of employees and other people in the industry,” Hirsch says. He adds that the animations are also lengthy and very detailed.
Working with this customer and others since, Systran has found that short three-minute animations that are available within 6-8 weeks of an incident have the greatest impact as training tools because the accident or near miss is still top of mind with employees.
The animations are created after reviewing the incident report, gathering technical data on the affected equipment and speaking with one or more process safety experts at the customer’s site. A storyboard of the moments leading to and immediately following the incident is developed and the key messages about risk mitigation and lessons learned are outlined. Once approved, the animation is created using specialized software to create the equipment, scenes, and characters with relevant personnel protective equipment that are realistic in their appearance, movements, and other behaviors.
“We are really trying to show the interactions between the employees and the equipment as accurately as possible so that we can realistically convey what happened during the incident or near miss,” Hirsch observes. With its experience in the process industry, Systran has an understanding of the equipment and activities that are involved in chemical manufacturing plants, which helps achieve that goal. The company also has experts in process safety, operations, and maintenance that help ensure the accuracy of the animations.
Although the service was introduced just one year ago, three companies are actively deploying animations, some on an annualized basis (one per quarter to cover near misses and lessons learned from previous incidents). In addition, Systran is exploring ways to add more value by leveraging the digital nature of the animations.
“Because the re-creations are short digital videos, it is possible to deploy them to smart phones and other mobile devices, which could expand learning opportunities,” says Hirsch. It is also possible to get a measure of employee engagement with digital training tools by tracking who opens the video. That idea can be taken even further with the incorporation of questions into the video to test understanding. The percentage of people who get the questions right would give an indication of the level of comprehension achieved and how successful the message was relayed, according to Hirsch. “We are exploring ways to leverage the analytics available with digital material to add more value to the animations as training tools,” he comments.
As a member of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SCOMA), Systran is also hoping to overcome the resistance to sharing incident and near-miss data that plagues the chemical industry. “The learnings from near misses in particular often do not get shared outside of each individual company, but everyone can benefit from them. Because there is a potential for similar mistakes to be made in any company, we would like to find a way to share the animated incident recreations so that these training tools can be accessible to everyone at both small and large manufacturers. As a leading industry trade association, SOCMA provides a forum for collaboration, networking, and sharing of information, and we hope that other members will be proactive and willing to work with us to find a way to help everyone benefit from this cost-effective tool for enhancing safety,” Hirsch states.