Are Health and Safety in Sync? Merging Physical and IT Security Gets Most of the Attention, but Significant Benefits Can Also Be Derived from Integrating Security with Health and Safety

Article excerpt

When it comes to coordinating security with other functions to improve efficiencies, the talk is most often about merging IT and physical security. Similar synergies can be achieved by integrating security with health and safety and cross-training personnel. Creating better communications between these two functions is especially important for the chemical industry. Unfortunately, organizations often fail to establish any link between these two essential groups.

The goals of the environment, health and safety (EHS) group and the security/loss prevention function are typically more similar than different. Each is focused on protecting employees and minimizing losses. However, each also has a specific focus and expertise. For example, EHS personnel focus on preventing and responding to accidents that could create hazardous conditions, while security is focused on intentional acts of tampering that could create hazardous conditions. It makes no sense for each group to address these two sides of the same coin in isolation, especially since in some cases measures intended to benefit one side might negatively affect the other if both aspects of the problem are not examined.

An example might be an attempt to harden a target such as a reaction vessel by enclosing the process in a cinder-block structure to make it less susceptible to attack from outside the premises using firearms or other projectiles. While that would increase security, it could create a safety hazard by increasing the potential risk of injury from incidental release inside the structure due to the vapors being contained and concentrated in a more confined area. Thus, security and health and safety should discuss any such measures with each other beforehand to ensure that all the potential issues, including ventilation, fire protection, pressure relief, and related engineering controls, are considered simultaneously.


EHS and security also use common methodologies. For example, both groups have long used what security personnel refer to as security risk assessments and EHS professionals call hazard risk assessments. The two processes are largely identical, but they focus on different threats. EHS groups use the process to assess the need to substitute safer products, develop more effective engineering controls, improve personnel protection, model or simulate chemical releases, and manage inventory and waste. Security uses it as the baseline for establishing physical security programs, access controls, security force levels, and related programs. However, each group could benefit from the insights of the other since approaching potential issues solely from one perspective can result in a degree of tunnel vision. …