IOSH journal papers relevant for the offshore sector

The IOSH publication policy and practice in health and safety (PPHS), vol. 4, issue 2 includes three papers relevant to the global offshore sector.

  • Learning from successful operations, in contrast to the much more common approach of learning from failures. The data came from two drilling organisations in Norway, using both observation (mainly during training scenarios on a well control simulator) and interviews.

I was particularly struck by a case study using a post-event workshop to review plans and actions to suspend drilling during a forecast significant storm. During the storm the rig manager decided not to disconnect, though the rig's 6m maximum heave limit was twice slightly exceeded. At the time this was judged as a successful example of balancing safety risks with operational ones (the well was not yet at reservoir depth). The workshop revealed strong differences of opinion as to whether that decision was correct (should you disconnect just before or after the limit is reached?), but the format allowed these differences to be highlighted in a constructive environment, and the resulting improvement actions were all completed in a timely way, without need for reminders, indicating strong commitments to the lessons learned.

The paper provides good insights into both the advantages and the challenges of trying to learn from successes as well as failure. It is very relevant for organisations concerned about the issue of 'drift', i.e. when continued apparent success gradually reinforces a culture of deviance rather than one of consistent compliance.

  • Using accident investigation metrics to assess Management System effectiveness, based on data from an aviation organisation in Netherlands. The metrics were simple - were the various investigation stages completed to the timescales defined in the internal procedure?

There were two main conclusions:

  1. There were significant delays in two areas, mainly because the investigators and others involved were expected by their managers to continue their 'normal' work as well as to complete the unscheduled additional work linked to the investigation.
  2. Different types of recommendation require very different timescales. Minor procedural changes and 'reminder' communications need only a short timescale, whereas recommendations linked to technological changes are much more time-consuming. The authors caution against inferring too much from this data from a single organisation. Also, I'm aware the aviation sector identifies and investigates a much higher proportion of 'near miss' activities and events than are typically recorded in the process and offshore sectors. Despite these caveats, there are useful insights relevant to managing investigations for offshore operations.
  • Safety of Polish workers in the Norwegian construction sector. The paper is based on interviews with both Polish and Norwegian workers. All the Poles had several years' experience of working in Norway, some lived in Norway, some commuted regularly from Poland in much the same way as the offshore workforce does.

A key finding was that most of the actions taken to integrate the Poles were linked to language - either helping them to understand Norwegian, or ensuring bilingual supervision. However important factors identified in the interviews were the more subtle differences in the two national cultures in particular whether you would admit to having not understood something and whether you were willing to challenge something your 'boss' expected from you.

The authors point out that it is too simplistic to think of a single 'national culture' - but still the paper provides helpful insights relevant for safety culture improvement for typical multinational offshore workforce.