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Human error cause of most oilfield accidents

96% of injuries are caused by unsafe acts.Studies by DuPont Safety resources show that human behaviour is the cause for most accidents.

96% of injuries are caused by unsafe acts. This is a statistic often repeated by Mark Hardaker, vice president, DuPont Safety resources. Advocating DuPont’s Safety Training Observation Programme (STOP), he is determined to prove to the Middle East region that it is people who cause accidents, and that they can be prevented by visible leadership.

“The most important step in getting a measurable improvement in safety is visible leadership. That means a visible demonstration by the leaders of the business to all the employees of a willingness and determination to effect a change and to drive it right through their organisation,” he says.

Hardaker’s efforts do not seem to be in vain, as more and more national oil companies are either implementing or considering a behavioural safety programme for their workers.

Ali Al Mahrooqi, safety manager of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), is convinced: “Unsafe acts cause unsafe conditions and with behavioural safety you can modify what you see, which is far more effective.”

PDO is striving hard to induct a safety culture into the company. According to Al Mahrooqi, the challenge is in convincing the management of a no-blame culture.

“Reporting of incidents is far more accurate when workers know that they will not be blamed for any mishap. It will be a collective responsibility of the team,” he says.

More than the other safety programme, a behavioural safety programme strives to change the attitude of the person, making it very essential for the management and the workers to remain committed.

Implementing a safety programme in this region is far more difficult than anywhere else in the world due to a number of reasons, the most prominent one being the multi–cultural environment. Essa Al Sarkal, HSE manager, Zakum Development Company (Zadco), who is currently considering a behavioural safety programme for the company, says translating the programme (most often in English) into many languages and integrating it into the different cultures will be a challenge.

Al Mahrooqi, while agreeing with the multi cultural barrier, also finds the fatalist culture of the region a huge barrier to a safety programme.

“People here believe too much in Karma (fate), which makes it difficult for us, as we have to convince them that it is your unsafe acts that cause accidents,” says this safety manager.
Accidents like the BP Texas refinery explosion only make it more evident that it is people who are responsible for mishaps, says Hardaker.

“A faulty flange or a leaky valve also has something to do with people, as it was some one person who forgot to take action when required,” stresses the safety consultant.

While striving to drive home the message that it is people who cause accidents, Hardaker is also careful to highlight the no-blame culture of DuPont, which encourages reporting of small to near miss accidents. The safety programme designed by the company also focuses the clients on so-called ‘leading’ rather than ‘lagging’ indicators.

“A lagging indicator, such as an injury or incident rate, looks backwards. It tells you what has happened: in other words, how many injuries were recorded, how many fatalities and so on, but gives you no indication of future trends. We help companies re-focus on the future by looking at leading indicators. An example of a leading indicator is the number of management audits conducted per month.”

Companies like Adma-Opco are going a step further with the programme, hoping that such behavioural safety programmes not only encourage safe behaviour at work, but also effect a change in the attitude of the person towards all activities.

Adma is one of the first companies in the region to integrate a behavioural safety programme into its health & safety policies.

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