Bringing Frontline Workers Into the 21st Century
- Phil Murray (Petrotechnics)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 50 - 52
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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As the oil and gas industry grapples with the challenge of understanding how best to react to the lessons of Macondo, there is growing recognition that the answer to the wider challenge of fundamentally improving the way the industry operates is not a simple one.
“The Chief Counsel’s Report: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Report to the President” was direct in stating that Macondo was more than a series of disparate technical failures, but also an overarching failure of management. “Ultimately, the companies placed undue reliance on timely intervention and human judgement in light of their failure to provide individuals with the information, tools, and training necessary to be effective,” it said.
As a result, industry safety continues to be at the epicentres of many discussions and debates post-Macondo. This was reflected at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), where regulators, operators, contractors, academics, and consultants offered insights into the underlying issues behind the tragic event. Some of the key questions and observations from the debate and discussion at OTC included the following:
- Should the regulatory environment provide more prescription or more goal setting?
- Has the industry’s successful focus on personnel safety created a process safety blind spot?
- Frontline operations need to improve across the globe.
- Greater engagement of the whole workforce is needed in operational risk management.
It is clear that ongoing challenges remain with risk assessment practices and, more importantly, how they affect decision making. Despite years of focus by the industry, the general consensus is that an opportunity remains to significantly improve operational risk management. That said, managing operational risk is a complex task involving a number of interrelated processes and issues.
One of the key areas where performance and operational risk management can be significantly improved, but has often been overlooked or where little attention is paid, is front-line work execution. How can we help frontline workers make better operational decisions to deliver safe and efficient operations?
What is Missing
Historically, significant investment has been made in people, processes, and systems in two key operational areas: management, and planning and process control. However, a key aspect of operations is often overlooked: work execution, where frontline workers routinely intervene in plant operations. This area is where safety and environmental performance is delivered by people with wrenches in their hands. Typically frontline workers depend upon a plan developed onshore that can never be complete as it cannot predict the dynamic nature of frontline work. As a result, the risk analysis and management during the planning phase do not account for the ad hoc nature of frontline work during the execution phase.
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