People: What do you do?
Me: I’m a Process Safety Engineer.
People: Wow, great. So, are you the one responsible for fire drilling at office?
Me: Hmmm, nope. *cringe
People: Oh. *confused and moved on with their lives
More often than not, people who asked what my job is and got the answer, would refer my job as a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Officer. Though a little bit upset, I didn’t blame them, really. They just got lost with the use of “safety”. Well then, what’s actually the difference between these two important jobs? Here are my analysis based on my every day activities in oil and gas industry.
Before any thing, let us be informed that Process Safety Engineering (PSE) has other names, Technical Safety Engineer or Design Safety Engineer. On the other hand, HSE Officer is sometimes called Occupational Safety Officer or HSE Inspector.
Safety Engineering is an engineering discipline which assures that engineered systems provide acceptable levels of safety.
Focus of attention for PSE is the whole system behavior and design of an oil and gas facility, while HSE Officer is keeping an awareness on a personal level/human behavior. PSE gives its best to prevent unintentional hazard release in the facility or designing intentional hazard release as low as possible. Hazard means any thing which has possibility to cause accident/harm/loss, such as fire, chemical, rupture, noise or human error. HSE Inspector works mostly on keeping the personnel from slip, fall or even catch illness. Moreover, PSE is the one protecting not only the facility workers, but also public, business and environment, because you know what, the PSE incident can be catastrophic. Imagine a rupture in pipeline containing high pressure gas near a busy public road? Or just simply watch Deepwater Horizon incident which took 11 lives and cost British Petroleum (BP) $54 billions.
The Safety Officer is responsible for monitoring and assessing hazardous and unsafe situations and developing measures to assure personnel safety.
Because of the widely range of major consequences, PSE cost huge amount of money to be implemented and to guarantee a system’s process safety. It’s more like an investment. For example, Deck Integrated Fire Fighting System (DIFFS). This expensive equipment itself is hoped to never be used, yet must be provided and must have high reliability. For HSE, it is a piece of cake to buy high quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or even a Breathing Apparatus.
Furthermore, it is easier to raise awareness related to one’s own health or safety rather than explaining whole system’s. PSE requires complex technical knowledge, mostly by Chemical Engineers which is relatively difficult to share to public/non-engineering workers.
PSE system requires the facility key persons to totally understand the importance. It aims to educate the boss/high level person in all board meeting while HSE educates the staffs/workers, usually in the team meeting.
Fortunately, the incident frequency for PSE is rather low compared to HSE. A system seldom break into emergency situation severe enough to cause PSE incident, whilst personnel HSE incident is highly recorded, though can cause a number of casualty also.
But bear in mind, both occupations are important and related to each other. Failure in HSE can lead to PSE incident and vice versa.
So, now you know.
For further information, please visit iChemE Blog.
Stay excellent, lads!
P.S. If somehow you still get confused (oh come on…!), just ask for our working helmet color. Whilst PSE is stuck with
boring white helmet, HSE Officer get to use the cool green one.
LtR: PSE Helmet and HSE Helmet