One definition of war from is ‘a struggle to achieve a goal’. The war on Process Incidents has been raging for 200 years, hostilities beginning when Du Pont began to modify their process designs and practices following a spate of fatal explosions at their Brandywine gunpowder facility in the early 19th century. As processing facilities evolved, the hazards they contained mutated, becoming bigger, more toxic, more energetic…..just more really.

As the hazards advanced, the humans regrouped and refocused. They improved designs, developed more robust barriers and reshaped culture. Over the decades, there were battles lost and campaigns dissipated, but gradually, almost imperceptibly, the enemy was ground down. By the time we arrived at the first decade of the 21st century, the hazards appeared to have been subdued – as far as reasonably practicably. By some measures, it is now safer to work in a High Hazard Process Plant than in a retail facility.

So, if, finally the war has been won, how can we now best keep the peace?

Peacekeeping refers to activities intended to create conditions that favour lasting peace. In Page Fortna’s book Does Peacekeeping Work, she distinguishes four different types of peacekeeping operations, with 3 being consent based (otherwise they couldn’t deploy or would have to withdraw), while the fourth does not require consent, though they may have it.

  1. Observation Missions which consist of small contingents of military or civilian observers tasked with monitoring cease-fires, troop withdrawals, or other conditions outlined in a ceasefire agreement.
  2. Interpositional Missions, also known as traditional peacekeeping, are larger contingents of lightly armed troops meant to serve as a buffer between belligerent factions in the aftermath of a conflict.
  3. Multidimensional missions are carried out by military and police personnel in which they attempt to implement robust and comprehensive settlements.
  4. Peace enforcement Missions do not require the consent of the belligerent parties. These are multidimensional operations comprising both civilian and military personnel. The military force is substantial in size and fairly well-equipped by UN Peacekeeping standards. They are mandated to use force for purposes beyond just self-defence. Examples include Sierra Leone in 1999, as well as the NATO operations in Bosnia.


Given the characteristics of Hazards, it would seem to me that a Peace Enforcement Mission approach may be merited. What sort of strategy, tactics and tools should this Mission employ. Some ideas which come to mind are:

  • Vigilance Engendering: As the impact of Process Incidents has been progressively constrained in recent years, so the wariness of industry actors has diminished. It is increasingly challenging to remain alert when nothing happens for longer periods. This trait can be countered by stimulating actors in positive ways: increased use of Process Safety gamification; leading and encouraging a proactive organisational PS culture; provide tools to enhance front line workers PS sensibility.
  • Increased Automation. As Shahana Buchanan advocated in her keynote presentation at Hazards28, the increasing levels and sophistication of automation is likely to be synonymous with a reduction of PS incidents – partly due to the reduction in people on plants and partly due to increased reliability of operations.
  • Knowing the Enemy: As the Process Industry continues to evolve, Hazards transform. It is therefore imperative that we strive to continually renew our understanding of the morphing threats and penetrable barriers.

It is in no-one’s interest for Hazards to become a reinvigorated and strengthened threat. The War on Process Incidents may be over, but securing a lasting peace has, to my mind, not yet been achieved.