Gas explosion at Atomic Junction
The explosion at Atomic Junction on the night of October 7th 2017 with its resulting loss of life (7 lives lost at present) and an undetermined number of injured people has been mainly attributed to the prevalence of a negative safety culture in our Oil and Gas sector. It is the latest incident in a dangerous trend plaguing the nation. Gas explosions are becoming way too frequent and if we do not address our problematic system, this may not be the last unfortunate incident.
The cause of Saturday’s explosion has not been determined officially but interviews with eye witnesses and people who frequent the LPG station points to gas leakage which unfortunately came in contact with an ignition source. When these accidents do happen, it is important that we do not quickly apportion blame but rather wait till proper accident investigation is conducted and both surface and root causes of the accident are identified.
Sadly this blast coincides with a period where the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have stepped up efforts to improve safety and risk management techniques in the downstream oil industry. The NPA launched a safety campaign dubbed “people safety first” to create safety awareness. With about 95 Oil marketing companies and over 1000 filling stations spread across the country, it is quite a daunting task for the authority.
Improving HSE performance for the downstream oil industry will require engaging not only NPA resources and manpower but also private Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) experts. We believe that extensive education, training and follow up monitoring will put us on the right footing to the long journey improving the industry’s HSE PERFORMANCE. Furthermore, concepts such as Key Performance Indicators need to be introduced in order for successful practices to be effectively monitored.
Safety audits needs to be conducted with regards to working conditions of all Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) as a start. From these audits we can determine the level of compliance to existing regulations or ‘lack there of’ in some instances. As a result, we can accurately identify the shortfalls of the existing policies and procedures and thus be able to formulate new safety management strategies.
All OMC should have comprehensive risk management plans which will detail their procedure and policies for managing risk as well as an HSE plan that conforms to standards set by the authority. As a method of improving the overall industry safety, OMCs with compliance issues must be encouraged to create and maintain practicable safety policies.
There should also be improved communication between regulators and OMCs in regards to safety. OMCs must be able to communicate their safety concerns with regulators without fear of being ‘blacklisted’ as has happened in many other industries world wide. Instead of always assigning blame, people should be educated to be accountable. HSE inspectors and trainers should be more visible and interactive with OMCs.
The mindset regarding safety will change not only with regulations but also with effective communication and constant discussion on safety. The NPA has shown enthusiasm in improving the safety performance and has demonstrated through its safety related activities this year however there are vast areas that needs to be improved i.e better planning, supervision, risk assessment, hazard identification etc. These can all be packaged in HSE safety training programmes and schemes thereby relieving the NPA of having to micro manage the numerous OMCs and filling stations all over the country.
Envirosafe Ghana Ltd.