Every day, on industrial sites, countless simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) are repeatedly performed. This occurrence concerns all types of industries such as mining, construction, oil and gas, maritime, manufacturing, chemical, etc. Also, employers have legal liabilities regarding prevention measures to guarantee a safe workplace for their employees. How can organizations ensure that all SIMOPS are performed with all the necessary security measures?
The type of operations can vary from simple ones, for example, turning on a cold room, to more complex ones involving specific work instructions, such as fuel depot. Some of these SIMOPS are so common and frequent that they are often overlooked. However, risk review and risk assessment must be carried out thoroughly. Safe work practices and procedures applicable to SIMOPs have to be applied consistently in order to ensure the employees’ safety, protection of the environment and equipment.
What is SIMOPS?
SIMOPS stands for Simultaneous Operations, it occurs when two or more potentially conflicting activities are being executed in the same location at the same time. Nowadays, industrial infrastructures are significantly larger than they used to be, more complex and sophisticated. There are SIMOPS being conducted daily on each of them. Thus, ensuring the smooth performance of these operations on a daily basis is a challenge for any organization.
How to conduct a SIMOPS Risk Assessment?
Mandatory risk assessment
There are countless variables that have to be taken into account when conducting SIMOPS. Therefore, it is crucial that all risks associated with this activity are cautiously analyzed and all necessary measures are predetermined and applied properly when needed.
For each specific operation, most organizations have a complete Operational Authorization Manual or MOPO (Manual of Permitted Operation) that allows them to safely perform each operation separately. More conscientious organizations have predetermined most potential SIMOPS in their day-to-day operations, along with any additional security measures required.
Nonetheless, unplanned and new SIMOPS are eventually going to take place. Operational activities are constantly changing and evolving due to countless internal and external uncontrolled factors (introduction of new technology, new product line, regulation change, etc). Dealing with these unplanned operational irregularities takes time and usually costs a lot of money. In addition, if a single risk is neglected, it can have serious consequences for workers, equipment or the environment.
Risk assessment steps
At the beginning of each project, dedicated meetings on risk assessment should be conducted. It concerns all the involved stakeholders in each potential SIMOP. All operations potentially considered to be SIMOPS must be identified, investigated and all parties involved must be consulted. The probable combined hazards resulting from these activities must be assessed. Also, appropriate control measures must be identified to ensure that all risks are reduced ‘’As Low As Reasonably Practicable’’ (ALARP).
At the end of these meetings, execution plans must be developed and shared with all parties. This practice should be repeated throughout the operational cycle when modifications are made on those sites. Indeed, these SIMOPS plans are dynamic, i.e., they will evolve according to operational changes. It must be systematically communicated between all parties, accompanied by control measures, monitoring and the dissemination of documents.
Taking the time to identify possible SIMOPS situations, early in the development phase, allows organizations to determine potential situations that could be the source of expensive delays or equipment damages or worse, serious worker injuries.
How to manage SIMOPS with Digital solutions?
A digitized SIMOPS management solution must provide tools and functions that facilitate the identification of additional risks introduced by the execution of two or more operations simultaneously. In addition, it must provide a framework allowing each manager to verify that all the predetermined and complementary risk reduction measures are systematically applied during each of these operations.
Digital management system platform
This tool centralizes the organization’s information and data on a single platform. A dedicated and a secure access function allow all SIMOPS operators to access all information and data (procedure, work instruction, standard, regulation, etc), wherever they are at any time. This function is convenient for the risk assessment process, because all past operations and incidents are automatically recorded, synthesized and easily accessible.
In the event of new risks being identified, it is possible for any platform user to alert all parties concerned. The user can record the new risk on an integrated digital dashboard and assign each person or work unit involved. Then, an automatic notification is generated. Some of these platforms can easily interact with your existing system. This feature allows each organization to use its own database.
The digitized applications are connected to the digital management platform. This is a suitable and important tool for field work, where it is installed on a tablet, a smartphone or a computer. Furthermore, they can operate offline. For the management of SIMOPS, some software editors (like BlueKanGo) can customize the application according to the specific needs of the user. This will greatly facilitate the management of SIMOPS in terms of creating new risk control digital forms (Permit To Work) for new and unscheduled SIMOPS.
Digital Electronic Permit To Work system (e-PTW)
The traditional or paper-based permit to work is usually time consuming and involves repetitive tasks with no added value. The digitization of this tool helps overcome those issues, it is a solution that streamline work permit management, while centralizing and standardizing this process. Organizations can ensure that all stakeholders have visibility into the PTW.
Interconnected with the whole system, it allows online approval processes, besides the different functions such as camera, voice, GPS, and e-signature.
Performing SIMOPS implies dealing with all the predetermined risks of each operation separately while considering all the new combined risks introduced. Before embarking on cumbersome and complex risk analysis meetings, it is always recommended to consider whether SIMOPS can be avoided, i.e., execute the operations at a different time frame. Otherwise, make sure that all risks and hazards are mitigated and all safety measures are included in the SIMOPS plan.