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Column: How To Avoid Safety Failures

Source: ProAct Safety | 3 January 2014

Late business guru Peter Drucker warned, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” Injures and incidents are failures in your systems. Injury prevention tools, culture, strategy, capabilities, and focus are part of the elements that make up your systems. Are yours aligned to focus on failing less or achieving success? Both are important, providing different types of organizational performance clarity. However, I’ve yet to see great sustained accomplishments in business, personal life, or sporting events obtained by setting and working towards a goal of not screwing up.

Leaders responsible for establishing strategy must move past what I call “The Perpetual Cycle of Avoiding Failures” to experience different results and performance in safety and culture.

OSHA and the Oil and Gas Industry Are Partnering To Address an Upsurge in Fatalities

Source: Safety+Health | 3 January 2014

Employment is booming in the oil and gas industry. Russ Shinert, midcontinent unit safety director of Salt Lake City-based Savage, described the draw for workers: “It’s good, hard, honest work, and you get paid well for it, and for the most part it’s long-term.”

But, it can be dangerous. Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a record number of deaths in the oil and gas extraction sector in 2012—even as workplace deaths trended downward overall. In total, 138 oil and gas workers lost their lives in 2012—a 23% increase from 2011.

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez expressed concern in a 22-August statement regarding the BLS data. “Job gains in oil and gas and construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable,” Perez said. “Employers must take job hazards seriously and live up to their legal and moral obligation to send their workers home safe every single day.”

Through efforts such as a nationwide safety stand-down in November, OSHA and the oil and gas industry are collaborating to address the layers of dangers these workers face.

Rail Explosions Won’t Curb Soaring Oil Shipments

The derailment of a train carrying oil in North Dakota on 30 December and the subsequent evacuations caused by its explosion could draw more regulatory scrutiny to rail shipments of crude. But the soaring use of trains to move oil is a long-term trend that is not likely to change soon, analysts say.

The incident “will continue discussion of safety issues surrounding train transport of crude oil,” investment banking firm Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said in a note to investors on Tuesday. The derailment “could pressure the permitting processes currently ongoing for rail facilities” on the west coast, the note said.

But the trend of heavy rail use for moving oil is here to stay, the firm said.

“Rail will be the long-term transportation solution out of the Bakken (Shale play of North Dakota) to the US East and West Coasts due to the lack of pipeline infrastructure to those refining centers,” the firm said.

Discussion Regarding the Proposed Changes to OSHA’s PSM

Source: OSHA | 30 December 2013

OSHA has proposes to update and expand its process safety management (PSM) standard for the first time since 1992. The agency has put out a request for information, seeking public comments on the proposed changes.

Some general comments to do with the OSHA material include the following:

  • Much of the discussion and justification for changes refer to actual incidents. OSHA seems to be using a case-based approach to process safety.
  • There is considerable cross-referencing to other federal and state standards.
  • It is likely that the number of companies and facilities covered by the standard will increase substantially. Many of them will be small organizations that do not currently have process safety programs.
  • The proposals to do with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practice reflect a healthy focus on engineering.

Gas Protection System Allows Safe Transit Through Dangerous Areas

Source: United Safety | 12 December 2013

A vehicle equipped with the Air Qruise system.

In 2003, sour gas forced the evacuation of 64,000 residents and killed 243 people in Gaoqiao, Chonqing, China, during a massive leak that covered an area of 25 km2. In January 2013, a sour gas leak near Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, forced police to close a 100 km stretch of a major highway.

The industry has been reminded time and again of the importance of continuously monitoring gas in and around work sites. At concentrations ranging from 250 to 1,000 ppm, hydrogen sulfide is deadly and can kill in seconds. In the event of an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulphide, every second counts.

“Today, in both industrial and upstream facilities, there are a range of solutions available to ensure the safety of personnel in the event of a toxic gas release. There is a gap, however, in ensuring that personnel stay safe while in transit,” said Elie Daher, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for United Safety.

To close the gap, he proposes that the industry needs a means of transport equipped with state-of-the-art gas-detection electronics, a compact air supply system, and rapid-deployment breathing masks to provide an immediate transport out of a toxic release site.

He calls this new technology the Air Qruise. The Air Qruise was launched by Al Hosn Gas Chief Executive Officer Saif Ahmed Al Ghafli on 10 November 2013 at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

The technical configurations of the Air Qruise—including the air supply module, air-monitoring systems, automatic alarm systems, and intelligent screen interface that provides instant reporting of vital information—are customizable to suit any form of transport from a bike to a bus for mass evacuation.

“Operating in high sour wells comes with the risk of hydrogen sulphide gas release. It is important to have customized safety solutions in place before it’s too late,” Daher said.

The objective of the Air Qruise is to support an emergency response plan that is quick, effective, and appropriate in order to protect the public, the company, and personnel from fatalities or irreversible health effects, he said.

Implementing a Process-Safety Program

Source: JPT | 12 December 2013

Between 2006 and 2009, Petronas Carigali embarked on a process-safety program driven by concerns over an increasing trend of process-related incidents. The program focused on defining explicit process-safety expectations and then putting in place the required processes to intensify implementation and mandatory compliance. Some 3–4 years into the program, tangible improvement can be felt across the organization.


The Business Case for Process Safety

Source: JPT | 12 December 2013

Over its 27-year history, the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) has observed that the first step toward implementing a strong process-safety-management program is obtaining top-management commitment. The CCPS has learned that communicating the business case for process safety is an important part of the process of obtaining this commitment. Using a fictional incident as a case-study example, this paper will illustrate that process safety can have financial, as well as ethical and professional, benefits.

Column: Imagine Thinking Backward

Source: The PSM Report | 12 December 2013

A useful discussion entitled Why Have We Dumbed Down Safety? at the EHSQ Elite LinkedIn site prompted some thoughts to do with the way we approach hazards analysis.

If the premise of the original post—that safety has indeed been dumbed down—is accepted, then one reason may be that we treat safety as a discrete topic, one that is its own discipline rather than being the outcome of the work of all other disciplines and activities. This creates a paradigm in which the “dumbed down” safety professionals think primarily in terms of safeguards such as personal protective equipment and emergency response. Yet a safeguard is the last stop in the safety process—indeed, if a safeguard is needed, then it shows, to a degree, that we have given up on avoiding incidents from occurring in the first place. For example, if the consequence of a hazard is a fire, then the use of the fire brigade is not really a barrier, it is an after-the-event safeguard.

Are Egos a Main Obstacle to Intelligent Energy Implementation—And Can We Get Around Them

Source: 9 December 2013

Most of the information in this column is wrong.

I don’t plan to waste your time—I believe that I have useful ideas here that could make a big contribution to offshore safety.

But when the CEO of a Norwegian oilfield services company said to me last year that “most people are wrong most of the time,” I thought, well, he’s right in the sense that I cannot think of anyone who is right most of the time. So, that probably goes for me, too.

I also want to make the point that, as reflective individuals, we do have the capacity to train our egos; and, if we believe that egos are the source of many obstacles to achieving safety, perhaps we can solve the problem at the source.

To start explaining what I mean, I would like to tell you about some talks that were presented at a breakfast forum at Offshore Europe in September 2013, about 2 weeks after the Sumburgh helicopter disaster in Scotland when four people lost their lives.

The speakers included Martin Rune Pedersen with Maersk Oil UK; Judith Hackitt, chairperson of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive; and Ian Sharp, chief operating officer for Fairfield Energy.

Pedersen explained that, every time a new drilling rig is brought to Maersk, the company organizes 2-day workshops with the drilling company staff that include team building exercises and technical discussions. Maersk values “humbleness,” which it says is “about listening and learning and giving space to others.” It also values what it calls “uprightness,” where people stick to their word.

Judith Hackitt advocated a mindset of “constant unease,” which she said “means never thinking the problem is fixed.” “Constant unease means never being complacent, being prepared to ask hard questions, and not seeking reassurance from what you know is right.”

Meanwhile, Sharp presented a result of a survey into worker engagement in the North Sea, which showed expected results on first glance; but, when examined more deeply, some questions emerge. For example: Why do site leaders feel less personally engaged in the site’s safety culture than workers do?

I am trying to pull out a common thread between all of these points—that all speakers were actually focusing on ego, a main threat to safety, and how to stop it causing problems and help us work more intelligently.

The ego, which tells us that everything is fine when it is not, the ego, which stops us questioning too hard, and the ego, which arises in difficult personal discussions when we get defensive talking to people we don’t know very well.

Defining Ego

I should probably try to define what I mean by “ego” if we are going to discuss it.

I am skipping over Wikipedia definitions of ego and coming up with one of my own, which I think you will recognize: when we create a kind of storybook self as a kind of defense.

Our actual selves can use the full force of our subconscious minds to weigh situations and figure out the best response and judgment for the benefit of everybody involved in a situation, what you want when trying to mitigate risks or find the best response after an accident.

Meanwhile, our storybook selves are worrying about how we have been treated, if the way someone spoke to us is compliant with our idea of what the storybook self wants. Our storybook self cares far more about our position in the organization and feels that being asked to change could be a sign that someone else has power over us.

But living behind our storybook selves can be easier if our real selves are not strong, or have not had enough exposure to gain strength. It is easier to see things as we would like them to be.

Drilling Rigs and Fighter Pilots

At the Integrated Operations forum in Trondheim in October 2013, I heard a talk by

Arent Arntzen, project manager for Statoil’s Arctic Drilling Unit and a former fighter pilot with the Royal Norwegian Air Force for 22 years. In it he spoke about how his pilot experience is relevant to his role now.

Much of the air force training is about avoiding the negative effects of the ego so people can do what is best for the organization, not themselves, he explained.

By contrast, oil and gas drillers make most of their decisions around not looking bad, he said. “Drillers are all mortally afraid of doing something foolish. If you know that, you can probably handle them.”

Arntzen was asked what advice he had for the oil and gas industry as to how to better manage people’s egos. In the air force, “every mission is briefed and debriefed,” he said. “When you debrief, everyone is subjected to his or her errors during this mission. That tends to shave away your ego every time.”

“Because, whether you are colonel or lieutenant, it is the same thing; you are all the same when you debrief, there is no hierarchy when you are debriefed.

“This is part of becoming an integrated team. You are able to put your position in the military hierarchy to the side. Because you were a team at the time. When you leave it, you shut the book and you back into the other structure.

“This takes some practice. And that will help with your ego.”

Lord Cullen

At the Aberdeen Piper 25 conference in June 2013, we heard from Lord Cullen, who conducted the enquiry into the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster. One of Lord Cullen’s key observations was that it is important to have people in a position to question the people who make safety decisions.

He might have said (although he did not) that this is a good way to prick people’s egos.

The “safety representative” idea was introduced in 1989 after Piper Alpha. In this idea, people elected by staff, not management, have powers to carry out investigations and can put safety concerns to senior managers without worrying about their jobs.

Companies should also have to present safety cases, or structured argument, showing that their system is as safe as reasonably practical. And this should be subject to interrogation by someone with expertise and indepednence.

Andrew Hopkins

Lord Cullen’s talk was followed by Andrew Hopkins, professor of sociology with Australian National University, who explained the critical factors with making safety cases work and why they fail.

The important features of a safety case regime, are (1) it must have a risk/ hazard framework, (2) there must be workforce involvement, (3) you must be required to make the case to a regulator, (4) the regulator must be engaged, and (5) there must be a requirement of duty of care, he said.

There is little point in introducing a safety case regime unless all five components are in place, he said.

“The US has 1 and 2, but Items 3, 4, and 5 are lacking. People say, which should you do first. My argument is this system won’t work unless you see it as a package. The safety case is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is presented to regulator for scrutiny.”

The “as low as reasonably practicable” (ALARP) requirement means that people can’t hide with the security that they have complied to a requirement because the requirement can change as soon as someone finds a less risky way to do it.

“One of the really tragic outcomes of the Macondo accident is that the US Department of Justice is prosecuting two of the wellsite leaders on the rig, who are basically foremen, low-level managers in the role they performed. In the US, we are seeing a “clumsy and misdirected prosecution,” Hopkins said.

“These are the only two individuals the Department of Justice is going to prosecute for criminal negligence. That seems to me to show a complete misunderstanding of what is going on and what the causes are.”

Hopkins also argued that the decentralization of BP, which happened after around 2000, with (for example) local drilling engineers reporting to the local asset manager rather than the company’s most senior drilling engineer, could have led to problems.

And (he might have said but did not), the senior drilling engineer has the most expertise and is maybe best able to prick the egos of his juniors, rather than the asset manager who might, if anything, just end up in a conflict over who is right, leading to inflated egos.

Intelligent Energy

We hear a lot about “management of change” as a main problem with digital energy implementations when we really mean “trouble convincing people to accept a change,” which sounds like the ego is in the room. The ego doesn’t like the idea that someone else can tell it what to do or to do things differently.

We’ll hear about conflicts people get into, which can be driven more by the ego wanting to get its own way.

We hear a lot about people given petty rules to follow, which feel like, and maybe are, someone with more power trying to show it to satisfy their egos.

We’ll also hear about people who don’t notice things as though they are more in their storybook world.

Four years ago at Intelligent Energy, I heard a great quote from Satish Pai, then vice president of operations with Schlumberger, about how so many people in the oil and gas industry want to save the world and want to convince their colleagues that the technology that they work on, or their expertise, is vital for saving the world. This also sounds like the ego in the room. Perhaps the real self doesn’t care if it saves the world or not.

Manage Ego

We are an industry that loves to manage things. Perhaps the ego is one more thing to manage; and, perhaps if we actively thought about it, we could do it very well.


Karl Jeffery is editor and cofounder of Digital Energy Journal. He is also publisher of Carbon Capture Journal and Tanker Operator, and cofounder of Digital Ship, a publishing and events company covering digital technology for the deep sea maritime industry. Jeffery holds a BEng degree in chemical engineering from Nottingham University.

Career Spotlight: Health and Safety Engineer

Source: Rigzone | 6 December 2013

For anyone interested in a well-paying, challenging, and rewarding oil and gas job that offers opportunities for relocation and comes with a lot of responsibility, one need look no further than a position falling under the category of health, safety, and environment (HSE).

There are several different positions covering a variety of industries under HSE. A health and safety engineer within the oil and gas industry plays a critical role in preventing mishaps, keeping workers healthy and injury-free, and, in general, helping to keep operations running smoothly and safely.

The position offers a number of challenges, including the need to prevent fires, explosions and emissions of contaminants into the workplace and atmosphere. They also map out ways to reduce a company’s emissions of carbon and to reduce or prevent work-related illnesses of company employees.

Beyond the moral obligations that companies have to workers and the environment in which they operate, there are potential legal ramifications and other financial concerns associated with an unsafe working environment, such as increased sick leave, employee turnover, the payment of disability benefits, and increased health care costs.

Lessons Learned From Deer Park, Texas, Plant Explosion

Source: The System Safety Skeptic | 27 November 2013

On 22 June 1997, an explosion occurred at the Shell Chemical Company plant in Deer Park, Texas. The facility produced a number of petroleum intermediates by processing crude petroleum feed stocks. Although no one was killed in the explosion, several workers received minor injuries and the facility and nearby residences were extensively damaged.

Analyses following accidents often show that clues existed before the mishap occurred. Such clues frequently take the form of anomalies, failures, and minor incidents observed during development of a new system or operation of an existing one.

Column: Safety Rules Vs. Safety Principles

Source: Safety Culture Excellence | 19 November 2013

An expert on team-building once suggested that an excellent team member may occasionally break a rule but would never violate a principle. At first, these two concepts seem incongruous. How could someone break a rule without violating a principle as well? The simple answer is that rules are incomplete and imperfect. They are often made with good intentions but seldom completely address all contingencies or always achieve the goal for which they were created. Principles, on the other hand, are more universal. They apply to all or many situations, whereas rules are often specific to a particular task or circumstance. Also, a few principles can replace a lot of rules, making it easier for workers to internalize them.