Human and Organizational Contributions to Safety Defences in Offshore Oil Production

  • Ann Britt Skjerve
  • Ragnar Rosness
  • Karina Aase
  • Stein Hauge
  • Jan Hovden
Conference paper


Offshore petroleum production involves several major hazards. In the tightly coupled production systems, incidents such as gas releases can quickly escalate to major accidents. The industry meets this challenge by introducing various safety defences such as firewalls, emergency shutdown systems, and work permit systems to make the platforms fault tolerant, i.e., to ensure that technical and human failures will not result in incidents or accidents. In high-risk industries the attitude to humans as part of the safety defences has traditionally been sceptic. Humans are perceived to be error prone, and it has generally been seen as desirable to minimize and control humans’ contribution to the extent possible using automation and operating procedures, respectively. In this paper we will argue that humans are essential as part of the safety defences at petroleum installations. Humans’ contributions are of particular importance in situations where the tasks required to defend safety cannot be automated, i.e. reliably accounted for in algorithms, because humans furnish required flexibility into the safety defences. To contribute positively to safety, i.e., in ways that lead to a reduction in the risk level, individuals and work groups need to be supported by appropriate organizational means, such as adequate knowledge, competence, resources, and tools. For this reason, we will refer to defences in which humans are allocated tasks to contribute to plant safety as human and organizational defences. In the paper we will outline three ways in which human and organizational defences are applied at petroleum installations, and discuss what kind of means that are needed to support these types of defences. The paper is based on the outcome of the first part of a research activity on fault tolerance, barriers and resilience [1, 2], which is performed within the framework of the project “HSE Petroleum: Change — Organization — Technology [3]. The issues presented in this paper will be addressed in more details in the following parts of this project.


Safety Mechanism Safety Barrier Organizational Defence Plant Safety High Reliability Organization 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Rosness, R., Skjerve, A.B.M., Alteren, B., Berg, Ø, Bye, A., Hauge, S., Seim, L.Å., Sklet, C.K., Aase, K. Feiltoleranse, barrierer og sårbarhet [Fault toleranse, Barriers and Resilience], STF38 A03404, Trondheim, Norway: SINTEF Teknologiledelse, 2002Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Skjerve, A.B.M., Rosness, R., Aase, K., Bye, A. Mennesket som sikkerhetsbarriere i en organisatorisk kontekst [Humans as Safety Barriers in an Organizational Context], IFE/HRIE-2003I023, Halden, Norway: Institute for Energy Technology, 2003Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hovden, J., Alteren, B., Rosness, R. HSE Petroleum: Change — Organisation — Technology. Paper presented at PSAM7IESREL’O4, Berlin, 14-18 June 2004Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    ISO 17776. Petroleum and natural gas industries — Offshore production installations — Guidelines on tools and techniques for hazard identification and risk assessment. ISO/TC 67ISC 6IWG 1. Published 17, October 2000Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    NORSOK S-001N. Teknisk sikkerhet [Technical Safety] NORSOK Standard S-001N. Rev. 3. January 2000. Norway: Norwegian Technology Centre, 2000Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kjellén, U. Prevention of Accidents Through Experience Feedback. Taylor & Francis, London, 2003Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    LaPorte, T.R., Consolini, P.M. Working in practice but not in theory: Theoretical challenges of “high reliability organizations”. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory; 1991; 1:19–47Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Westrum, R. Cultures with requisite imagination. In J.A. Wise, V.D. Hopkin and P. Stager (eds) Verification and Validation of Complex Systems: Human Factors Issues., Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1992, pp. 401–416Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Skjerve, A.B.M., Skraaning Jr., G. A Classification of Validation Criteria for New Operational Design Concepts in Nuclear Process Control. Paper presented at the OECD NEA Workshop on Modifications at Nuclear Power Plants — Operating Experience, Safety Significance and Role of Human Factors, Paris, 6-8 October, 2003Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Snook, S.A. Friendly fire. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2000.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Schulman, P.R. The negotiated order of organizational reliability. Administration & Society; 1993; 25:353–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M. Managing the Unexpected. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 200111Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Britt Skjerve
    • 1
  • Ragnar Rosness
    • 2
  • Karina Aase
    • 3
  • Stein Hauge
    • 2
  • Jan Hovden
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Energy TechnologyHaldenNorway
  2. 2.SINTEF Industrial ManagementTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Stavanger University CollegeStavangerNorway
  4. 4.NTNU Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology ManagementTrondheimNorway

Personalised recommendations