Chemical companies are leading the way in integrating safety and security functions to achieve synergies.
- Build collaboration
- Identifying companies
Safety and security. They are so closely related that the same word means both in Spanish. Why, then, are the two concepts often widely separated inside corporate walls? It’s not uncommon, for example, for companies to have an environmental health and safety (EHS) department that reports to one director and a security department that reports to a different director.
Those arrangements miss out on the synergies among these various functions, resulting in “stovepiping,” redundancy, and inefficient use of resources. Many chemical companies have learned that lesson and have integrated EHS and security departments, says Bob Durstenfeld, director of corporate marketing at RAE systems, which makes chemical-detection monitors.
Build collaboration. Cooperation can be fostered between the safety and security groups in several ways. For example, security personnel can ask to sit in on EHS meetings, and can invite health and safety personnel into their meetings.
To further develop relationships, periodic meetings should be held to bring together security and EHS peers. In addition, both groups can be cross-trained, and crossover tasks can be included during performance reviews: security personnel can have a safety element in their evaluations, while safety personnel might have a security component in theirs.
Benefits. Perhaps the best way to build a relationship is to emphasize the benefits to both sides. Various professionals interviewed for this article mentioned that their security forces felt less bored and more fulfilled when they were assigned safety tasks on top of their security duties.
Turnover rates among contract security staff are notoriously astronomical, but Environmental Health, Safety, and Security Manager Billy Lee Scott, of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, says that most of his 17 contract officers have lasted more than three years, and he attributes that in part to the diversity of duties.
When officers are fulfilled and challenged, benefits multiply. Assigning safety duties to security officers pleases them because it gives them more to be on the lookout for, says William C. Hendon, of Eastman Chemical Company, West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
Hendon adds that the increased duties have built security officers’ confidence and skill sets. “It helps them, because they have unique skills if they go elsewhere,” he says.
Cross-pollination between safety and security can also save money, Crosby points out. For example, one major pharmaceutical company gave its security officers the responsibility of closing the front sash on fume hoods as they made their rounds after hours when the lab was not in use. Because fume hoods consume a lot of electricity, the move to have security close them at night dramatically cut energy costs and saved $1 million annually.
Another advantage of involving security in safety issues is that EHS, not typically a round-the-clock enterprise, will get continuous coverage and have additional personnel on the ground, says Peter Crosby, president of Exposure Assessment Strategies, a health and safety consulting service. For its part, security gets access to data such as chemical inventories and other compliance data that may be applicable to security assessments.
Identifying commonalities. Security overlaps with EHS in four areas, says Crosby. They are: emergency response, life-safety inspection, chemical management, and facility design and construction. Some companies cited collaboration in conducting vulnerability assessments. In addition, some companies have integrated electronic security and life-safety systems.
Emergency response. Emergency response is a logical area for collaboration between safety and security, since it heavily involves both elements. At Sony Ericsson for example, Scott says that he cross-trains his contract security guard force with safety instruction to make them versatile.
“We have limited resources, so I have to get contract security to do as much EHS as possible,” he says. For example, officers are trained in first aid and CPR and may be used as first responders.
Similarly, IMC Chemicals Inc. in Trona, California, has its security force multitask safety issues, but in its case, that’s due as much to the facility’s location in a small town as it is to maximizing resources. As Patricia L. Mullis, manager of health safety and security notes, Trona is an old, small company town near Death Valley National Monument, and it lacks full-time law enforcement.
Not only does IMC provide emergency response on site but it also serves the 3,000-strong Trona community, many of whom are workers or family members of workers. Included in Mullis’s department are emergency medical technicians and others trained to provide first-response medical treatment to injuries.
IMC even has its own fire brigade, Mullis says, which handles all fire response issues. Security staff are trained with the mind-set that safety issues, particularly the emergency response function, typically trump security concerns. In an emergency,“It’s better to get people out of the building than worrying about someone coming in without a badge,” she says.
Life-safety inspections. Security is also closely related to life safety, so the two form another close fit. Inspections were one of the duties most frequently cited by those contacted for this article as being shared by safety and security staffs. According to Crosby, inspections typically cover fire-detection and alarm systems, fire-prevention systems, garden-variety safety hazards, and issues such as building occupancy and evacuation procedures.
At Sony Ericsson, for example, security officers are trained to look for typical safety issues, such as slippery conditions and electrical hazards, when doing inspections or walking on patrol. Officers on second or third shifts, when fewer employees are in the building, are routinely required to check fire extinguishers, exit-sign bulbs, space heaters, and other safety items for Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) compliance and compliance with other relevant regulations such as building and life-safety codes.
Scott emphasizes, however, that for legal and other reasons, the officers don’t handle duties such as inspecting lab areas. “I do not want to put them in the situation that they could be blamed for causing a test malfunction while looking at a chemical bottle or even spilling a chemical,” Scott says.
“It would also cause additional training issues if I were to expect officers to do these type of inspections.” Similarly, he says, security officers do not look for ergonomic issues, not even in passing.
Mullis takes a similar approach at IMC. On their normal patrol routes, security officers are constantly on the lookout for safety concerns, such as ensuring that workers are wearing proper safety equipment. During these patrols, they look for chemical spills, which they immediately report to their fire brigade and to regulatory agencies.
They also observe and report safety conditions relating to such issues as lighting campus, road, and parking lot conditions; handrails; and stairs. Since the officers may be the only patrol force in the community during certain hours, they also closely monitor for any effects that the facility might have on the region at large.
In addition to observing and reporting on safety issues, officers teach safety awareness classes to employees. They are not responsible for fixing safety problems, however. IMC assigns its analysis and remediation work to three safety engineers on staff. “We expect officers to be safety observers, not engineers,” Mullis says.
Evolution. In many chemical companies, safety was a preexisting department, with security duties added to safety professionals’ responsibilities later. That’s the case at Eastman Chemical Company, West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, which originally had only an environmental health and safety department.
The American Chemistry Council then released security guidelines to meet the post-9-11 threat profile and, in the wake of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), the Coast Guard issued security regulations for companies that ship hazardous chemicals.
The new requirements prompted the company to create the health, safety, environment, and security department, says Hendon, manager of the department. Hendon himself spent 20 years in the environmental field and in the safety arena for another ten years, before taking on security duties in 2002.
Now he assigns safety responsibilities to the four contract security officers, who were taken on after the passage of the MTSA, in the combined department. The contract security staff’s duties include checking safety showers, inspecting fire extinguishers, and providing safety orientation for small groups of contractors, which is an OSHA requirement.
The department’s six proprietary workers, including safety inspectors and environmental coordinators, pitch in on the security side. They fill in for guards during breaks and serve as additional security personnel during heightened maritime security levels and during emergency response, Hendon says.
At Rhodia Company, since 9-11 security has been beefed up and safety and security functions have been coordinated where synergies make sense, according to John C. Stoney, manager of health safety and security at the company’s Charleston, South Carolina, plant. For example, the person responsible for inspecting emergency response equipment now also supervises security hardware, such as cameras and gates, Stoney says. In addition, a safety professional was also assigned to oversee the security guard force.
The guards handle issues such as inspecting confined spaces to make sure they comply with OSHA requirements, which saw that such spaces must limit the inherent dangers, such as asphyxiation and close proximity to mechanical parts. They also perform lockout/tagout duties, meaning procedures to protect employees from the unexpected startup of machines or equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance.
Vulnerability assessments. In chemical companies, environmental health and safety staff collaborate more closely with the security department in conducting site vulnerability assessments since 9-11, even though these assessments are generally a security responsibility in the corporate world. In many cases, both functions contribute to the process, especially since the departments have overlapping, if slightly different, goals.
In fact, the vulnerability assessment model that Sandia Laboratories created for chemical companies suggests that the team that conducts the assessment might “be the same one that prepared the process hazards analysis (PHA) for the facility, with the addition of one or more employees with security responsibilities.” A PHA—which involves identifying chemicals with the energy potential for injuring people, property, or the environment—is usually conducted by a team that includes process-safety professionals. Similarly, a security vulnerability assessment released by the Center for Chemical Process Safety of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers calls for the expertise of both safety and security.
Stoney says that most of his colleagues in process safety—who are charged with preventing unwanted releases of hazardous chemicals—have taken the lead in the vulnerability assessment arena in their companies, though site security is principally the domain of the security department. That’s because safety professionals have a better understanding of the chemical risks, the targets of opportunity, and the means to create a release, he explains.
Moreover, process safety professionals are well versed in risk analysis techniques. “In the chemical industry it appeared to me that this type of expertise did not exist in the plant security area, probably due to the nature of the threats prior to 9-11 and the objectives of security prior to 9-11,” Stoney says.
Chemical management. Though it requires more training and expertise, chemical management—including hazard assessments of products and waste, and security of materials prior to use or off-site transport—is sometimes an area of collaboration between safety and security functions.
That’s the case in a limited way at IMC. While a separate environmental department handles chemical management, security has to approve any chemical allowed on the premises. Officers also receive all hazardous materials, serving as weighmasters at the facility’s gates.
Moreover, they maintain material safety data sheets(MSDSs)—documents that list information about the chemical in a container, such as melting point, toxicity, health effects, safety precautions, and other information that allows safe use and handling of a material—for IMC’s products, says Mullis.
Facility design. In a few cases, safety and security have joined forces in developing security designs and in the construction process. The opportunity exists for many more companies to do so, says Crosby. One example would be attempts to harden a vulnerable point, say at a tank farm, a collection of petroleum storage tanks with different capacities.
With a tank failure in mind, environmental requirements mandate that a dike or moat of sufficient size be constructed to capture the contents of the largest tank. In light of terrorist concerns, it might be wise to increase the capacity of these dikes or moats because an attack might compromise more than one tank. Depending on the threat profile, planning for a larger-volume release during design might be an
example of EHS and security collaborating, Crosby says.
At Eastman Chemical, Hendon says the same people look for both safety and security hazards in a new design project. They ensure that any work does not affect regulations, law, or company policy, he says. Scott, the manager of environmental health, safety, and security at Sony Ericsson, says that he works “hand in hand” with the facility manager. “Any new work we have going on in either area, security or facilities, we review together and solicit input from each other,” he says.
Systems integration. Beyond the coordination of personnel is the question of whether a company should integrate any or all of its security and life-safety systems
Technologically, integration is doable today, but various factors impede integrating these two systems. Strict life-safety codes in many cities make system integration or interfaces a “touchy subject with fire departments,” says Geoffrey Craighead, CPP, author of High-Rise Security and Fire Life Safety.
In the commercial real estate area, I haven’t seen a joining together,” he says. “Life safety is life safety, security is security. The people are often the same, but the systems are different.”
Craighead has seen buildings join the two systems in at least one application, however. Some life-safety codes, like the Los Angeles code, require buildings to allow clear emergency access to the roof, he says. Consequently, some building managers fear that doing so will give suicidal people a clear path to jump from their rooftops. A few managers have managed to convince fire departments to allow a variance to control nonemergency access to roofs. In these cases, the door to the roof is locked. Anyone wishing access can use an intercom connected to the security station to ask that the door be opened. A camera at the door allows officers to ensure that the person is authorized to go up.
Where the integration comes in is when an emergency alarm goes off. At that point, the relevant life-safety system triggers the door to the roof to unlock.
Another example of integration is at IMC, where some electronic fire-detection systems are tied in with CCTV, so officers can remotely determine, before scrambling responders, whether a fire is really taking place. Because fire-detection alarms are tied into the security control panel in the main command center, officers need not refer to a separate system and monitor to handle fires.
Although Mullis can’t quantify savings, she says that integration has helped pare both personnel and operational costs. The increased efficiency has helped the company stay competitive in a tough market.
Challenges. Various obstacles make integrating personnel and duties for safety and EHS a challenge. Collaboration might seem to be a threat to either department, with each fearing that it will be subsumed by the other. In addition, corporate culture might have created a divide and perhaps a rivalry between the departments.
One or both departments could already be collaborating with another department or have taken on other duties outside of their core functions to help their company be more cost effective. If that’s the case, pulling safety and security together might seem too burdensome or complicated.
While safety and security often run parallel courses, they also can collide. Personnel working in both safety and security will run up against issues such as access control, which aims to keep people out, versus easy evacuation, which also allows outsiders to enter. Consequently, the culture of security might seem to clash with that of safety.
Hendon notes a possible negative influence on company staff. “Safety people are generally seen as a friend, but not so much when they do drug testing and vehicle searching,” he says. His department has had to justify these security measures to staff. “By and large, people have accepted that.”
Despite these obstacles, safety and security are natural allies. By vesting these functions in the same department or enjoining the departments to work together, companies can produce both financial and procedural benefits.
Michael A. Gips is a senior editor at Security Management.