Accelerating Operations Management Safety

Improving Operations and Quality Systems for a Safe Work Environment


A large, multi-national oil refinery had experienced a series of safety incidents resulting in employee casualties. A federal investigation resulted in required improvements costing millions of dollars to fix the identified systemic issues. These improvements required the establishment and implementation of rigorous safety policies, operating procedures, robust preventive maintenance processes, and employee training. All of the changes were subject to a binding deadline for completion.


Four years after the requirements were agreed upon, the refinery still lacked significant progress to meet the federal requirements. A federal audit resulted in a mandate that all of the recommendations must be implemented within one year; penalties for failure would include revocation of the refinery’s right to operate – a costly consequence.

With the deadline rapidly approaching, the company was acutely aware of the critical need to move quickly. Establishing an accelerated project management focus, the company decided to retain an independent project management company to provide expertise, guidance, and leadership to implement the changes. IPM was chosen based on its project management capability demonstrated by a history of success in developing and executing strategic plans – getting the work done and delivering results.


The project goals were to:

1) implement the complex strategic program; 2), deliver measurable results through focused and collaborative efforts; and 3) institute a safe operating culture. Management at the refinery understood what needed to be accomplished but not how to get it done to comply with the federal directive in the time available.

Working with plant management, IPM immediately developed a comprehensive plan for implementation, identifying and defining the scope of work for seven separate work streams to deliver the specific outcomes required.

Working with key stakeholders, IPM led and coordinated activities to deliver measurable results across the seven work groups. Utilizing a focused and collaborative project management approach, IPM created an effective decision making process, detailed monitoring of progress, established an accountability for results, and orchestrated a clear and timely communications plan.


Managing through the complexity of a cross-functional project, IPM’s project managers became working members of each work stream and led coordination of efforts across the entire program. The final result was the successful completion of each work stream’s defined objectives within the one-year time frame.

IPM delivered the following results:

  • Ensured the storage, control, and accessibility of all process safety documentation.
  • Validated and updated all operating limits for the process units.
  • Established a mechanical integrity program for all pressure equipment and relief valves.
  • Created a preventive maintenance program, a master list of equipment assets, and completed failure mode effects analyses.
  • Ensured compliance with ANSI/ISA-84 standards and the mechanical integrity of instrumented protective functions and systems identified to mitigate process safety related risks.
  • Provided strategic implementation direction to ensure successful execution of facility, process, and people improvements.
  • Developed and implemented training to influence a culture shift towards safety.

Meeting the federal mandates on time allowed the refinery to continue to operate in a safe and sound environment.