Elevating safety standards: When an East Coast-based petroleum company acquired a smaller firm, one of their first priorities was to ensure that the new company met their own strict safety standards. Although the petroleum company and risk manager were well-versed in implementing these measures, they decided to take their oversight to the next level.
They called Zurich.
“They wanted us to look at their program and provide input for the firm, which stores and exports diesel and fuel oil,” said Andrea Edwards, a Senior Risk Engineering Consultant with Zurich Services Corporation. “They were definitely trying to be proactive.”
Andrea noted that companies in the energy sector are already highly regulated by governmental agencies, and necessarily so. Mishandling flammable and/or toxic materials can have disastrous consequences. This customer understood the value of setting an even higher bar for safety and trusted Andrea to help them reach that goal.
“We often look a little deeper,” Andrea acknowledged. “A company may be meeting the standards, but we can show them what they could do to further improve their operations. In this case, the new company wasn’t doing anything wrong or out of compliance, but they didn’t have the robustness of programs that we would like to see from a best-in-class perspective for this type of asset.”
Building strong relationships: With a degree in chemical engineering and over 12 years working in the energy industry, Andrea is knowledgeable in risk mitigation and optimal practices. Her customers also appreciate that her experience aligns with their own.
“Because my background is in refining, I think the people I visit love that I speak their language,“ she said. “When they’re talking about processes and operations, I understand what they’re saying. They don’t have to break down everything.”
In this case, Andrea said, “the customer was going in a good direction. I understood they were starting from square one, and suggested some measures that would be helpful to include.” This included creating a safety protocol form for maintenance workers, which would include a clear description of a given task, the hazards associated with it and precautions to take.
“It’s a way to make sure the scope of the work is understood by everybody,” she said.
Andrea also noted that the facility lacked on-site fire protection. She suggested the customer meet with the local fire department to discuss safety options, such as installing smoke detectors and/or sprinklers, as well as creating a plan for workers to follow should a fire occur.
As with every site visit, these recommendations were included in a comprehensive report that documented the facility’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the cost of potential losses if some suggestions weren’t implemented. Andrea writes descriptive and detailed scenarios that provide a real-world view of how such losses could transpire, as well as the potential cost to the facility.
“I always look for recommendations that could further improve their programs,” she explained. “Two questions we ask when we look at any type of asset are: What is the hazard level? Are they dealing with flammable chemicals? The main thing we focus on is what prevention programs they have in place. How do they maintain their equipment? Do they have good procedures to make sure they’re not accidentally causing any issues? Do they have good checks and balances? As a last resort, if there is some kind of issue, what protection programs do they have? We review fire suppression, detection systems, emergency shutdowns, those sorts of things.”
Seal of approval: The risk manager recently sent Andrea a letter complimenting her and Zurich for looking out for them. He also expressed his appreciation that Zurich provides its customers with a depth of services and industry knowledge that can help them reach their full potential.
“Every time I give that risk manager a report, he has been very, very receptive,” Andrea said. “He finds that our feedback is very beneficial. They always have an open-door policy for me.”
Andrea takes her responsibilities seriously, with good reason. “A big part of my job is to check that customers have taken the necessary safety and precautionary measures to help prevent a disaster.”