Safety: always a priority
An important enabling factor for carrying out our activities is the safety of our employees and the communities in which we work. A priority for us is therefore to create a safe and healthy workplace and to minimise risk to the natural environment. Since safety is an important indicator of the quality of our work, we want to be one of the best international gas infrastructure companies in terms of safety performance. European benchmarking of similar gas transport companies, carried out by Marcogaz, shows that we are already one of the best within our reference group, and we naturally strive to maintain this position.
Research into safety culture and behaviour
We pay a great deal of attention to the safety behaviour of our employees. To find out whether we can improve this even more, we started a study in 2013 into the internal safety culture and safety behaviour of our employees. The study is intended to serve as a thermometer, giving us insight into where we are now, what is going well, what can be improved and which trends we see. We aim to work towards a culture in which people automatically think of and choose safe options that are not subject to pressures of time or money. We intend to repeat this study regularly, so that we will gain insight into developments over time, and can determine how effective our projects and actions are.
Our results in the area of occupational safety
In November 2013, despite all our efforts in the field of safety, a fatal accident with a crane occurred involving one of our contractors – an accident we deeply regret. We will follow closely the investigations by the contractor and the Health & Safety Inspectorate into the cause of this tragic accident, and together we will determine what measures need to be taken in order to prevent such an accident occurring again.
|Number of injuries resulting in absence per million hours worked||2013||2012|
|Gasunie employees in the Netherlands||0.9||0.4|
|Gasunie contractors in the Netherlands||1.0||1.7|
|Number of injuries resulting in absence|
|Gasunie employees in the Netherlands||2||0|
|Gasunie employees in Germany||0||1|
|Gasunie contractors in the Netherlands and Germany||3||7|
|Number of reportables per million hours worked|
|Gasunie total (the Netherlands + Germany)||3.6||2.5|
We also record the number of potentially dangerous incidents (incidents that did not result in injury but could have had serious consequences). In 2013, we registered 20 of these; in 2012, 17. We carefully analyse these dangerous incidents to prevent a recurrence.
Process safety: new KPIs
Besides occupational safety, we also work hard on ‘process safety’. Process safety relates to large incidents whereby hazardous substances and/or large amounts of energy are released. Inspections which we carry out as a consequence of the EU DoMAH showed that our performance could be better. In 2013, we therefore mapped out how we could improve our efforts in this field. Employees explored this topic together in brainstorm sessions. We also used benchmarks as input for our discussions. Based on the outcomes of these sessions, we drew up some twenty KPIs covering the most important aspects of process safety. As of 2014, we will apply these to measure, monitor and improve our performance in process safety.
Technical safety: safe management and maintenance of our pipelines and installations
All our installations, including our transport installations, comply with the legal requirements for external safety. To keep our underground pipelines in good condition, we take both preventative and corrective measures. In particular, we carry out ongoing inspections, which play a key role in helping us to ensure the integrity of our transport system.
We inspect our underground pipelines, both on the inside and on the outside. For inspecting inside the pipelines, we use intelligent ‘pigs’, robots that are carried through the pipelines by the gas flow. In 2013, in the Netherlands, we inspected some 267 kilometres of HTL pipelines (2012: 295) in this way and 196 kilometres of RTL pipelines (2012: 280). In Germany, we inspected 278 kilometres. We also checked another 76 kilometres of pipelines for which we could not use the robots, and instead used an above-ground inspection method, the ECDA. ECDA is a method we developed ourselves for inspecting pipeline segments that cannot (or only with difficulty) be examined by ‘pigs’. In 2012, we inspected more than 80 kilometres using ECDA.
Besides providing information, placing marker poles above the pipelines and carrying out visual inspections, we also carry out aerial surveys of our pipeline routes by helicopter. In 2013, these aerial surveys revealed a variety of anomalies. Where necessary, we took immediate action to maintain a safe situation.
Corrosion assessment: new insights
In 2013, we gained new insights and made new calculations regarding corrosion. In practice, it turns out that corrosion does not take place as quickly as used to be thought. We have therefore modified our pipeline inspection policy accordingly. As a result, we can use our inspection tools more efficiently, without affecting the technical safety of our pipelines.
External safety: bottlenecks resolved
In 2011, the Decree on the External Safety of Pipelines came into force in the Netherlands. The decree, which is designed to ensure that pipelines are situated in safe locations, requires that measures are taken within three years to resolve bottlenecks at locations that have vulnerable objects within the ‘10-6 contour’. To comply with this legislation, in 2010 and 2011, we mapped out existing and potential bottlenecks. We then asked all local authorities involved whether the situation we had mapped out indeed reflected the situation on the ground (e.g., with regard to the presence of people and buildings). On that basis, our route managers have since developed and applied appropriate measures in each case.
We made good progress in this regard in 2013. Most bottlenecks have now been cleared. The few remaining locations where we have not yet been able to take appropriate measures will be dealt with at a later date. At a few other locations, we are still waiting to see whether the proposed measure has actually solved the issue.
From 2014 onwards, we will take additional measures in situations that pose a risk to groups of people. In such cases, the risk to each individual remains within the safety norm, but it concerns a larger number of people at any one time. Although in these cases there is no direct legal obligation to take measures, in consultation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, we have decided to take measures anyway since, with relatively little effort, we can reduce risk for a larger group of people.
To guarantee safe and reliable gas transport, our infrastructure should not be disturbed. We therefore strive to make sure that no natural gas is released as a result of damage to our pipelines. Excavation works are the main cause of damage to our underground pipeline network.
In 2013, we reported six incidents of pipeline damage caused by mechanical excavation. In none of these cases did any gas leak into the air (in 2012, there were five such incidents, one of which involved a gas leak). In addition, due to a structural defect, there was one incident of pipeline damage with a very minor gas leak. There were no incidents of pipeline damage due to excavation at Gasunie in Germany in 2013 (2012: 1).
Our results compared with others: European benchmark for pipeline incidents (EGIG)
As all European gas transport companies record their pipeline incidents in the same way, we can easily compare our performance in this part of the gas transport chain with that of other companies. With regard to pipeline incidents with gas leaks, we score better than the European average (source: database of EGIG).
Safety – opportunities for improvement
We go to great lengths to make sure that our safety performance is excellent. However, in some respects, there is still room for improvement.
Investigation of pipeline incidents
In 2013, several incidents took place in which our pipelines were damaged during excavation works. A remarkably high number of these incidents occurred during activities which we had commissioned and even supervised ourselves. This was despite the fact that we have invested considerably in providing supervision and specifying procedures, precisely with the aim of reducing the chances of damage to our pipelines as much as possible.
We take such matters very seriously, and are keen to learn from these mistakes and take measures to prevent a recurrence. We therefore analysed the relevant incidents in detail, including interviewing those involved. The investigation showed that the fault did not lie with a lack of appropriate procedures or tools, but rather that, for various reasons, they were not always fully followed or used. We have therefore added two additional managers to our own team of supervisors. Extra attention will be paid to following a uniform way of working, in accordance with the agreed procedures. This will be monitored closely.
Increasing safety regarding integrity of purchased materials
Over the past few years, as a result of incidents involving materials such as pipe tees, line pipes and reducing tees, we have conducted several investigations into the supply of materials that do not conform to the specifications in our orders. From our own internal research and external research by the sector, it appears that statements made by suppliers regarding the composition and requirements of the products delivered cannot always be relied upon to be accurate, even if the suppliers are being supervised by an independent inspectorate. This does not necessarily mean that the materials deviate from the order to such an extent that they pose a threat to process safety, but it is certainly true that they are more likely to do so if the properties of the materials are not as ordered. Moreover, if the discrepancy is discovered just before the materials are needed, the project may be delayed if the materials require further inspection and no other, demonstrably correct, materials are available.
We have therefore reviewed our materials purchasing policy. To increase the reliability of the delivered materials – and thus reducing process safety risks as well as project risks – we are modifying our purchasing strategy and the supervision of the delivered materials. Part of the new policy will be for us to buy materials under the supervision of an independent inspectorate. We will also check the qualifications of our suppliers by scrutinising their technical skills, their organisation and their quality management. These qualifications will need to be renewed periodically. In the meantime, we will check the reliability of our suppliers by carrying out spot checks. Since this process is very time-consuming, we will look for suppliers with whom we can build up long-term relationships.
The qualifications process will be carried out at the beginning of 2014. We will focus on suppliers who are important to our multi-year replacement programme.