The UK Health & Safety Executive has published a new guide, Inspection of Electrical, Control and Instrumentation Systems at COMAH Establishments (Operational Delivery Guide), explaining how the safety watchdog will assess the compliance of electrical, control and instrumentation (EC&I) systems at sites that fall under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regime.
The purpose of the guide is to ensure consistency within the regulation of COMAH sites and to provide transparency to companies about what is expected and the way the resources of inspectors are to be targeted.
The guide includes benchmark standards that are used to assess the way companies manage risk and the HSE says that these represent a consensus between regulators, technical experts, duty holders and other stakeholders on what constitutes proportionate action to control a given hazard.
The guide warns that failure to control process conditions and the risks from electrical installations and equipment have been the main or underlying cause in many major accidents both in the UK and abroad, including those at Buncefield and BP Texas City.
In particular, HSE research into the causes of major accidents and incidents indicates that failure to adequately control process conditions, especially during normal operations, is responsible for the loss of containment of hazardous substances.
Equally, EC&I equipment and systems can prevent major accidents taking place, for example as a result of instrumented process safety measures such as trips, alarms and interlocks.
The scope of the guide is across three major inspection topics — functional safety, explosive and toxic gas atmospheres and electrical power systems.
The delivery guide, available from the HSE website describes how the COMAH competent authority inspects EC&I aspects of control of major hazards at COMAH sites, in particular those related to function safety, explosive and toxic gas atmospheres and electrical power systems. It also includes the benchmark standards that are used to assess the way operators manage risk.
The HSE has also produced a new web portal (www.hse.gov.uk/eci/, which provides a comprehensive guide to the legislation and benchmarks used during EC&I inspections and safety report assessment work at onshore major hazard installations.