RAMS (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety) principles have become an intrinsic process for any owner or operator in a range of industry sectors. In the railway industry the need for a standard for this was identified in the late 1980s, with a standard (EN 50126 Railway applications – The specification and demonstration of Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety – RAMS), being developed in 1999 to help improve asset performance and safety in the European rail sector. This has been a success, and the same principles can help operators within the nuclear and oil and gas industries meet similar requirements.
Businesses with potential for big losses in the case of unwanted events have always had a strong focus on working systematically with safety related matters during design, construction, commissioning, operation and shutdown of facilities. This approach tends to be driven by the internal factors within the company, alongside the need to meet authoritarian requirements and the high demand for safety in all aspects of the business. Safety has always been a key focus in the energy business, whereas in the rail sector it has grown along with the business – becoming more demanding over the last decade with an increase in public demands.
Due to this, the nuclear and oil and gas industries look at the RAMS process with a predominant focus on the safety aspect – which should be the case in industries where an incident can effect more than just the business. One key element that the process provides is the ability to monitor the performance of the different systems allowing corrective actions to be taken when deficiencies are identified rather than as they arise – reducing both operational risks and downtime. After events such as Fukushima and Macondo the focus on pre-emptive measures has increased, organisational integrity is of the upmost importance, but to achieve this, principles such as RAMS needs to be acknowledged by the business as a whole.
The RAMS principles provide reassurance for all parties, with a focus on reducing risks and downtime throughout the assets lifecycle. This is something that is essential for all business, and RAMS can be established to meet these requirements in all types of industry. We have already seen such developments to help monitor safety and reliability within the nuclear and upstream industries. RAMS is not a required standard in the Energy sector but due to the demand for new technologies and the push to discover new deposits in the oil and gas industry, the need for such close monitoring has increased, and is the reason RAMS has developed to meet such requirements in these industries. People have learnt from each other and should continue to do so; openness of data should be the norm.
Such methods are not intended to solely meet regulatory requirements, they provide long term operational integrity throughout the lifecycle. It is not only the reduction in downtime and cost that should be of importance, increasing the safety of personnel, third-parties and the environment are all key aspects of a business that runs to the highest operational performance. To achieve such highs businesses should work together to create a safety culture that protects the future of the industry.