In every chemical processing plant crisis’ occur which demand your complete attention, skill and experience to overcome. Whether it is a power failure with the potential for every pipeline to bog, or a life threatening fire, or even quality contamination that could cost millions of dollars, the ability to stay calm in the face of adversity is a significant advantage.
“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”
Charles de Gaulle
1. Be Prepared
No-one can prepare themselves or their plant for every possible crisis, but having a plan of action prepared in advance means that you can act quickly and reduce the potential consequences. The action of preparing the plan itself is just as useful as having a plan – it provides an opportunity to develop the best strategy without the added pressure. Conducting a HAZOP means that potential problems and consequences are always considered, and turning those into an action plan ready to go is the next step.
All plants have action plans for cyclones and power failure, but there are countless other possible crisis’ that should be considered to ensure the best outcome is achieved.
If there is a potential crisis that you can foresee with devastating consequences then get working on an action plan NOW! Waiting for it to actually occur is too late.
2. Don’t be Hasty
“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted”
When a crisis occurs time is critical, but it pays to slow down and think deeply about the problem, consider all the consequences and people that will be impacted so that the best action can be taken. All too often people act quickly without thinking. Consider that thinking before acting will take less time than acting incorrectly and having to clean up your own mess, or start over completely.
During times of a crisis everyone needs to be working towards the same goal. They can be working on very different aspects of that goal but their overall focus should be the same. Communicating fully is extremely difficult, and increases in difficulty as the size of the business and crisis grows. Systems should be built to ensure that communication can be achieved during difficult circumstances.
4. Learn from the Experience
All too often problems occur multiple times. It is fascinating to listen to older experienced workers who have experienced similar problems several times throughout their careers without appropriate controls being put in place to avoid them. Learning from our mistakes is absolutely critical to ensuring success as a business, a plant, and an individual.
Being cool, calm, and collected during a crisis is extremely advantageous for any engineer. It is particularly important if you are at the point in your career when many turn away from the technical aspects and focus on management. Learn how to handle a crisis now and you will have a much greater likelihood of saving the day when the time comes.
Please leave a comment if you have any advice that you have experienced after successfully or unsuccessfully handling a crisis.