Offshore Gods and Goddesses?

It is strongly held by many of the world’s religions that there is some sort of Supreme Being that is omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent and infallible all at the same time. Clearly a logical impossibility but that’s the role of the Gods isn’t it? To be able to do the seemingly impossible? And that’s why we term them Divine.

Why is it then that the same is regularly expected of human beings? Whether it’s expecting our politicians to deliver us utopia; our surgeons to save everyone coming into their operating theatre, or our golf stars to act with the utmost decorum at all times… People clearly make mistakes (some bigger and more costly than others).

So if it is accepted that humans can and do make mistakes for all manner of reasons why is it then that process safety policies and procedures offshore are still struggling to account for the effects of so called Human Factors? Why is it that metrics are used as a tool to measure the health of the plant without looking beyond the figures? After all it was a human that recorded them down!

In researching the Upstream Safety conference recently I have come across two types of company – those that are combining the two disciplines and those that are looking at them in silo. Clearly with the former group there is a movement towards integration but what about the latter cross section of the industry? Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps the two aren’t reconcilable and the engineering specifics of process safety ought to be looked at separately to the behaviour of the operational staff…

And correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that it was those same operational staff members that are operating the machinery, responding to the alarms, maintaining the infrastructure? And aren’t those same individuals human? Who get tired? Complacent? Distracted?

The term process safety culture is one that is banded around the industry a lot – and there is no denying it is clearly an issue of utmost importance. But let us not forget that even the most engaged worker can make a mistake.

Speaking as an observer across different aspects of an industry that has made huge progress in recent times; it is clear that mitigating for human factors in regards to process safety risk is going to be the battle ground for next few years.

One thing is for sure, unlike the Gods, people are mortal so this is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore!

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