On the 1st of April, the ‘smart industrial and product safety policy’ came into effect in Japan to strengthen safety awareness in high-pressure gas businesses. The policy comes into play in light of the serious accidents, fatalities and injuries that have occurred in recent years, centred around petrochemical complexes.

The new system, under the leadership of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), is designed to promote more advanced accident countermeasures and increase the overall safety capabilities of gas plants in Japan. 

Plants that meet the required autonomous safety conditions will qualify for an extension from that period until the next safety inspection, enabling continuous operation. Work procedures will also be simplified so that minor operational changes become subject to notification as opposed to requiring official approval from management.

In a recent evaluation, results show that the plants which benefited from continuous operation were limited to petroleum refining, petrochemical plants and general chemical plants. However, Industrial gas and LP gas plants with small-or medium-scale processing capacities were not taking advantage of the incentive because of concerns that they would not be able to achieve a return on the digitalisation investmentents that are required. To tackle this, a ‘plant system for pursuing the sophistication of autonomous safety’ was introduced that provides a leeway of three months for early or delayed safety inspections, enabling inspections to be performed when supply levels are low.

A new ‘super certified plant system’ has also been introduced for plants that exceed safety standards. This system provides incentives such as allowing exemplary plants to be flexible and set their own safety inspection periods and methods. To receive this certification, five requirements must be fulfilled: Establish a management department for safety, operation and facilities, implement risk assessments, use IoT and Big Data, perform personnel education and training, and use in-house and third-party expertise.

METI plans to investigate the conditions and needs for the introduction of IoT and big data, to help small and medium companies recognise the benefits associated with the sophistication of an autonomous safety system.

Health and safety quality control compliance