The Human Factor: Process Safety and Culture
- Technical Reports Committee
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 2013. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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In July 2012 the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) held a two-day summit on human factors to create a common understanding of the strategic challenges for the oil and gas E&P industry, to identify what is known and unknown in the field, and to explore possible actions to accomplish the needed change indicated by the U.S. National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling report.
This Technical Report is based on discussions and conclusions at the summit and is intended to provide guidance on the human factors risks in E&P operations and what can be done to reduce those risks and increase safety.
The changes required in the industry involve moving to an organizational culture in which process safety is as well managed as personal safety is currently managed in the industry. In civil aviation, a series of major accidents led to the introduction, mandatory requirement and acceptance of human factors methodologies called Crew Resource Management (CRM). Similarly, the nuclear power industry identified and acted upon the concept of its safety culture after a small number of major incidents. The challenge is whether the E&P industry can achieve a similar breakthrough by confronting the human factor as an issue in process safety both onshore and offshore.
1.2 Process and Scope
A steering group of subject matter experts (SME’s) developed the summit agenda. Participants in the summit were nominated by the steering group as SMEs with experience and knowledge needed to achieve the objectives of the summit or applied to attend and were accepted by a steering group as SMEs. The final composition of about 70 participants represented a broad cross-section of the industry, with individuals from oil and gas major operators, national oil companies, smaller operators, major contractors, regulators, universities and consulting organizations.
In preparation for the summit, a steering committee developed the following list of six topics to act as a springboard for discussion:
- Defining the Scope of Human Factors -- What is human factors in the context of Process Safety? Summit participants identified ten risk areas that need to be addressed. Three of these were considered priorities that underpin the others. Three others were considered “low hanging fruit” that would be relatively, easier to develop.
- Safety Culture -- The safety culture of organizations is often proposed as the problem and development of a culture of process safety as the solution. But these concepts need to be made accessible to the wider industry. Despite the many advantages a safety culture brings, it cannot easily be regulated; organizations have to do it themselves if they want the benefits.
- Training and Certification -- Solutions proposed often involve more training and rigorous certification. Both technical and nontechnical skills are important requirements for safe operations. The industry can look to other sectors, such as aviation, nuclear power and defence for good examples of skills required.
- Operational Control of Work -- A new approach to management may bring in many of the human factors requirements. Operational Control of Work is an idea that goes beyond management of change (MOC) to capture the strategic and then tactical deviations that, by small-scale alterations, have been found to underlie many incidents.
- Decision-Making -- Decision-making and the assessment and communication of risk lie at the core of safety management. Yet the summit identified a lack of knowledge in the industry about this vital topic. There is a wide body of established knowledge that is highly relevant but little known in the oil and gas sector.
- Information Technology (IT) -- IT faces many challenges regarding what information to present to individuals and teams. Moreover, it is often unclear in its support, appearing to be confrontational or confusing.
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