Human and Organizational Contributions to Safety Defences in Offshore Oil Production
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 . The issues presented in this paper will be addressed in more details in the following parts of this project.
KeywordsSafety Mechanism Safety Barrier Organizational Defence Plant Safety High Reliability Organization
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