Goran Prvulovic via LinkedIn | 25 February 2015

Column: Situational Awareness at an Organizational Level

The concept of situational awareness is not a new one. It is often talked about in management circles and is extensively covered in occupational health and safety literature, especially in relation to an individual’s ability to understand the work environment elements in a particular time frame, evaluate a range of factors, and use the acquired knowledge to predict their status in the future. It is a deep, conscious awareness in “now,” the present moment.

Situational awareness can simply be seen as a past, present, and future state with associated internal questions such as:

  • Where was I, and what happened before?
  • Where am I, and what is happening around me?
  • And where am I going, and what can credibly happen?

There are a range of factors associated with situational awareness such as attention, ability to recognize and retrieve patterns, workload, mental models, and working memory. In fact, situational awareness is mostly about human ability to adequately focus and resist tunnel vision and the capacity to self-reflect. When situational awareness works, we are aware that we are being aware. This is where individuals need to be to achieve safe execution of work and a local workplace balance between production and protection.

Can the same principle be applied to an organization as a whole? Does an organization need to be situationally aware? It makes sense that it does, especially in relation to management of business risks in all functions, and at all levels.

The Associated Press | 23 February 2015

AP Exclusive: Fuel-Hauling Trains Could Derail at 10 a Year

The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next 2 decades, causing more than USD 4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the US.

The projection comes from a previously unreported analysis by the Department of Transportation that reviewed the risks of moving vast quantities of both fuels across the nation and through major cities. The study completed last July took on new relevance this week after a train loaded with crude derailed in West Virginia, sparked a spectacular fire, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of families.

The accident was the latest in a spate of fiery derailments, and senior federal officials said it drives home the need for stronger tank cars, more effective braking systems, and other safety improvements.

“This underscores why we need to move as quickly as possible getting these regulations in place,” said Tim Butters, acting administrator for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The volume of flammable liquids transported by rail has risen dramatically over the last decade, driven mostly by the oil shale boom in North Dakota and Montana. This year, rails are expected to move nearly 900,000 car loads of oil and ethanol in tankers. Each can hold 30,000 gal of fuel.

OESI | 19 February 2015

OESI Plans Two Forums To Boost Offshore Safety

The Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) is holding two forums in March in Houston with the goal of increasing safety and environmental responsibility in offshore operations.

The first forum, Decreasing Ocean Energy Safety Incidents Through Greater Incorporation of Human Factors and Human/Systems Integration, will be held 10 March. The second, Maintaining a High-Level of Focus and Increasing the Safety Culture in the Shallow-Water Operating Environment, will be held 11 March.

Human Factors, Human/Systems Integration
Even with continued improvements in engineering solutions and safety management systems, upstream incidents continue to occur in the offshore environment. Throughout early OESI forums, a key thread was the need to discuss human factors in the offshore operating environment. The OESI will convene top industry, academic, and research experts from various companies, universities, and organizations in a forum to discuss “Decreasing Ocean Energy Safety Incidents Through Greater Incorporation of Human Factors and Human/Systems Integration.”

Discussion will revolve around how organizational elements and design decisions can lead to incidents being decreased or mitigated. Speakers will include industry experts such as Eduardo Salas, trustee chairman and professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, and Anthony Ciavarelli, founder and chief scientist of Human Factors Associates. Presentations will offer perspectives and insight from organizations such as Worley Parsons, Shell, and Transocean.

The forum will look forward by searching for ways to enable the safety culture on the outer continental shelf further by incorporating design and organizational perspectives. Attendees will interact with presenters and panels in order to share best practices, understand areas for further efforts, and develop opportunities for additional research and collaboration.

Registration will include continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments throughout the day, as well as a summary of the proceedings.

Register for the human factors forum here.

Blowouts in Shallow-Water
While drilling and operating in deep water carries obvious danger and risk, shallow-water drilling and operations are not without their own dangers and risk. With shallow-water drilling conducted in closer proximity to the shoreline, reactions to leading indicators become that much more critical. The OESI will convene top industry, academic, and research experts from various companies, universities, and organizations in a forum to discuss “Maintaining a High-level of Focus and Increasing the Safety Culture in the Shallow-Water Operating Environment.”

Discussion topics will include whether standards and safety barrier equipment (e.g., blowout preventers) should be modified for shallow-water operations and industry efforts in addressing shallow-water blowouts. Speakers will include industry experts such as Charlie Williams, executive director of the Center for Offshore Safety, and Neal Adams, recipient of the 2015 SPE Drilling Engineering Award. Presentations will offer the perspectives of organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Society of Petroleum Engineers, as well as the insight of other well-control experts.

The forum will look to the future by searching for ways to enable the safety culture further on the shallow outer continental shelf. Attendees will interact with presenters and panels to share best practices, understand areas for further efforts, and develop opportunities for additional research and collaboration.

Registration will include continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments throughout the day, as well as a summary of the proceedings.

Register for the shallow water forum here.

About OESI
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) selected the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center to manage the OESI. The 5-year agreement, with USD 5 million in total funding from BSEE, provides a forum for dialogue, shared learning, and cooperative research among academia, government, industry, and other nongovernmental organizations in offshore-related technologies and activities that help ensure safe and environmentally responsible offshore operations. TEES is partnering with Texas A&M University, The University of Texas, and University of Houston to manage the institute.

The institute stems from a recommendation from the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee, a federal advisory group comprising representatives from industry, federal government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the academic community. The institute is an important source of unbiased, independent information and will not have any regulatory authority over the offshore industry.

In addition to periodic and topical forums that also help identify areas for further investigation, the OESI will coordinate and focus an effort to identify scientific and technological gaps in the ocean energy safety realm. The OESI will work to synchronize research opportunities to fill these gaps in order to further enable safe and environmentally responsible ocean energy operations. Also, the OESI will facilitate supplemental education and training of BSEE and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management employees to ensure that the federal workforce maintains the same level of technological expertise as the engineers, scientists, and technical experts in the oil and gas industry.

The Associated Press | 18 February 2015

West Virginia Oil Train Derailment Was One of Three With Safer Tank Cars

The fiery derailment of a train carrying crude oil in West Virginia is one of three in the past year involving tank cars that already meet a higher safety standard than what federal law requires—leading some to suggest even tougher requirements that industry representatives say would be costly.

Hundreds of families were evacuated and nearby water treatment plants were temporarily shut down after cars derailed from a train carrying 3 million gal. of North Dakota crude on 16 February, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary, and burning down a house nearby. It was snowing at the time, but it is not yet clear if weather was a factor.

The train’s tanks were a newer model—the 1232—designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry 4 years ago. The same model spilled oil and caught fire in Timmins, Ontario, on 14 February and last year in Lynchburg, Virginia.

A series of ruptures and fires have prompted the administration of President Barack Obama to consider requiring upgrades such as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections, and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously, rather than slam into each other.

United Safety | 17 February 2015

New Vehicle Delivers Safety in Flammable and Toxic Environments

Advances in oilfield technologies and processes have made sour-gasfield development a reality. These fields offer vast oil and gas production opportunities, but the presence of hydrogen sulfide toxic gas creates unique challenges for operators. When this flammable gas is released to the surface, it can create an atmosphere with an increased risk of explosion.

United Safety launches the Air Qruise Electro-Ex with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

United Safety launches the Air Qruise Electro-Ex with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

Traditional combustion vehicles are not allowed inside these areas, so, in order to transport personnel and equipment, the industry started relying on electric vehicles. However, even before reaching flammable levels, the air in these environments most likely is already toxic to people. Therefore, a solution for this scenario must tackle both flammability and toxicity issues, making safety innovation vital to the sustainable exploration of these resources.

With that in mind, United Safety launched the Air Qruise Electro-Ex in association with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex is an ATEX-certified, explosion-proof, battery-powered vehicle. It combines explosion-proof mobility with state-of-the-art gas detection electronics, a highly compact air-supply system, and rapid-deployment breathing masks. This unique combination ensures that personnel are immediately alerted to a gas leak while being supplied with breathing air and transported out of the toxic release site. Additionally, there are improvements in efficiency and productivity, such as optional self-contained-breathing-apparatus jump seats that allow personnel to ride fully equipped, resulting in quicker, safer, and more efficient transport designed for these extreme environments.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex vehicle.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex vehicle.

“Al Hosn Gas is committed to becoming the world’s leading company in developing sour-gas resources. Given the complexity of the Shah gas field, we are actively seeking innovative and creative solutions for possible safety gaps as an added layer of protection for our workforce,” said Saif Ahmed Al Ghafli, chief executive officer for Al Hosn Gas.

“The Air Qruise Electro-Ex answers a direct need of operators in sour fields, and the fact that Al Hosn Gas quickly adopted the technology shows that there are in fact players in the industry that are willing to go the extra mile in order to keep their people safe,” said Elie Daher, executive vice president at United Safety.

Read more about the Air Qruise Electro-Ex here.

Bloomberg | 17 February 2015

Canadian National’s Main Line Shuts After Crude Cars Derail

Canadian National Railway shut its main line linking western and eastern Canada after an eastbound train carrying crude oil derailed in Ontario.

The train of 100 cars, all carrying crude from Canada’s oil-producing region of Alberta to eastern Canada, derailed just before midnight on 14 February in a remote and wooded area about 30 miles north of Gogama, Ontario, spokesman Patrick Waldron said in an email. About 18 freight trains a day use the line, he said. A total of 29 cars were involved in the incident, and seven caught fire. The remaining 71 cars were moved from the site, Waldron said. Some oil was spilled.

Canadian oil producers have grown dependent on shipping crude by rail as pipeline capacity has become constrained. The shutdown happened as locomotive engineers and conductors walked off the job at Canadian Pacific Railway, the country’s second major rail carrier, in a move that threatens to snarl carload traffic across the country.

“There might be a push for more pipeline infrastructure because the rail system that we have been relying on for a long time, the cracks are starting to show,” Carl Larry, Houston-based director of oil and gas at Frost & Sullivan, said in a telephone interview.

USA Today | 17 February 2015

Oil Train Derails, Burns in West Virginia

A train hauling North Dakota crude oil derailed 16 February along a snowy West Virginia river, igniting several tank cars, burning down a house, and prompting water-treatment plants to shut down, authorities said.

About, 2,400 residents around Adena Village, near Mount Carbon, were evacuated as a precaution after the 1:30 p.m. accident, Fayette County deputies said. One person was being treated for possible breathing problems, but no other injuries were reported by early evening.

At least one tanker from the 109-car CSX train tumbled into the Kanawha River south of Charleston and was leaking Bakken shale oil, which was headed to a refinery in Yorktown, Va., said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.

Water-treatment plants downstream closed intakes and halted operations as a precaution, and residents were urged to conserve water. Officials said the fires were expected to burn until about midnight.

Tomblin declared a state of emergency in Kanawha and Fayette counties.

Reuters | 17 February 2015

USW Leader Says US Refinery Strike Could Spread Over Safe Staffing

A strike by US refinery workers that entered its 16th day on 16 February could spread if there is no progress in talks this week with plant owners on safe staffing levels, said the lead negotiator for the United Steelworkers union (USW).

“The longer that this strike rolls on, the more people that will be affected,” said Gary Beevers, USW international vice president, in a telephone interview.

Asked if the lack of progress in talks with lead oil company negotiator Royal Dutch Shell could result in strikes at more plants, Beevers said: “There certainly will be.”

About 5,200 workers from 11 plants, including nine refineries accounting for 13% of US capacity, were walking picket lines after talks between the USW and Shell Oil failed to reach an agreement on a new national contract.

Read the full story here.

USA Today | 13 February 2015

Potential for Drilling off Virginia Shore Worries NASA

Twenty days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill rocked the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the US Department of Interior canceled the proposed sale of a gas and oil drilling lease, Lease 220, off Virginia’s coast.

Almost 5 years later, the possibility of oil and gas drilling off the coast has reappeared, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announcing in January that a draft oil and gas leasing program for 2017–22 would include one sale in the Atlantic.

According to the bureau, an area of about 2.9 million acres off Virginia may contain 130 million bbl of oil and 1.14 Tcf of natural gas. A lease would give companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron a chance to drill for those resources, which many contend would bring economic activity to the region.

Virginia is ready for a lease, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in comment submitted to BOEM, and prepared to support the potential new energy industry. A study into the state’s preparedness is currently being completed.

Another part of that preparation has meant working with the military to avoid conflicts. Katie Hodgins of US Fleet Forces Command said the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia and the Department of Defense are planning to conduct an assessment to determine the compatibility of a lease sale with their operations.

NASA is asking to be involved in the draft proposed program process, restating concerns brought up with Lease 220. The range must be clear of personnel and property before a launch, and some launches, such as the twice-a-year International Space Station cargo resupply, have a window of 5 minutes or less.

“The presence of either temporary or fixed structures at or below the sea surface, within our range’s hazard areas, would have significant detrimental effects on our ability to conduct aerospace test activities,” NASA said in a comment. “Even the temporary presence of support ships or aircraft within a mission’s hazard areas can result in mandatory range safety criteria not being met, leading to missed launch opportunities.”

KUOW | 10 February 2015

Refinery Workers Strike for Safety at Site of Deadly Anacortes Explosion

About 200 workers at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, are on strike. They’ve had a 24-hour picket line at the plant’s main gate for more than a week.

Steelworkers at nine oil refineries, which produce about one-tenth of the nation’s gasoline, are striking.

Like many labor disputes, this one includes a push for higher wages, but the United Steel Workers say they’re more concerned about their safety on the job.

“Anybody’ll tell you, we make a decent living,” said Tesoro-Anacortes steelworker Ryan Anderson. “What’s important to us is establishing safe staffing at these plants, getting our manpower up to a level that we can feel safe, that our communities feel safe.”

Anacortes suffered Washington’s worst industrial accident of the past half-century in April 2010 when a fireball erupted at the Tesoro plant. Seven workers died; the explosion rocked houses miles away in residential areas of Anacortes.

“Basically, it’s always in the back of our minds that something could happen,” Anderson said.

The United States has a serious refinery accident about once every three days, according to the US Chemical Safety Board.

HSE Press Journal | 3 February 2015

Oil Spill Cleanup Hazards

Oil is pouring from a ruptured pipeline beneath the ocean, and the oil company is hiring as many people as possible, including Paul, to try to contain and clean up the oil spill. Once Paul and the other new-hires finished filling out the new-hire paperwork, their new boss quickly went over safety training with the group. The training consisted of a brief review of marine oil spill response, which lasted about an hour. Their supervisor spent another hour covering marine vessel safety. Paul and the new-hires were going to serve on marine vessels and vessels of opportunity (VOO) to deploy and recover booms. After the brief safety training review, Paul’s supervisor assigned him to a vessel and he started working. After working on the vessel for 4 hours, Paul was beginning to get tired and overheated. It was a very hot day and everyone was working hard to clean up the oil spill and were losing track of time. No one had taken a break.

Crews uncovered an oily boom, and Paul’s boss asked him to help pressure wash it. While doing this, he started to feel light-headed. He started to lose consciousness and slipped. Paul hit his head and fell over the side of the ship and into the ocean. It took 5 minutes for the crew to realize what happened and to pull Paul back on board. Paul sustained a concussion and neck injury and was taken to the hospital for overnight observation. Fortunately, Paul had his life jacket on, which was the only thing that saved his life.

Plant Services | 3 February 2015

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Productivity

People are often tempted to make do with available tools and risk bodily injury for the sake of saving time and energy. This temptation applies to nearly all tools and equipment, including those designed to provide access to elevated work heights. The risk of falls from elevated working heights is very real. According to Liberty Mutual’s 2013 Workplace Safety Index, these types of incidents ranked as the fourth leading cause of workplace injuries, and they led to USD 4.9 billion in direct costs to businesses in 2011.

This is where safety on ladders, scaffolding and low-level access lifts comes in.