EI activities update: Nuclear human factors workshop in September

July 29, 2010

Nuclear Human Factors – 16 September 2010, London 

The EI will be holding a nuclear human factors conference and workshop on 16th September in association with the Nuclear Institute.  

This conference aims to look at the current human factors practices employed in the industry and discusses the benefits of an intelligent application of human factors methods and knowledge.  

Confirmed speakers at this event include Rear Admiral (retd) Paul Thomas, President of the Nuclear Institute; Professor Sue Cox, Dean, Lancaster University Management School; Richard Scaife, Keil Centre; Joe McCluskey, Sellafield Sites; and Aileen Sullivan, British Energy. 

For full details, or to book your place at this event, please click here: http://www.energyinst.org/events/view/232 


EI activities update: human factors training in September

July 29, 2010

The Energy Institute will be running two human and organisational factors training courses in London in September, and then in Houston, Texas, in October.  The training courses will be run by Bill Gall of Kingsley Management, and will concentrate on basic human factors awareness, and human factors in incident investigation.  Full details and how to book are below:

Basic Human Factors Awareness
20 September 2010 – London

13 October 2010 – Houston, Texas

This one day training course provides an essential overview of the role of human and organisational factors (HOF) in the energy sector and allied industries. The workshop will examine the environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety. Delegates will learn how they can improve procedures, conditions and performance in their own work place.

Please click here for more details or to register online for the training courses: http://www.energyinst.org/training/technical-training

Human Factors Incident & Accident Investigation & Analysis
21-22 September 2010 – London

14-15 October 2010 – Houston, Texas

This two day training workshop will focus on the analysis of incidents and accidents and will clarify the process of identifying root causes using practical examples. The workshop will provide an overview of available analysis methods and the application of these to identify the underlying management and organisational deficiencies responsible.

Please click here for more details or to register online for the training courses: http://www.energyinst.org/training/technical-training

In recent news: Workers raised safety concerns weeks before Deepwater Horizon blast

July 27, 2010

A workforce survey conducted on behalf of the owners of the Deepwater Horizon rig, weeks before the explosion that killed 11 workers and caused large scale damage to the area, has revealed that staff were concerned by safety issues.

Lloyd’s Register Group conducted the survey and focus group in March 2010 on behalf of Transocean.  They found that there was a heightened fear among workers of reprisals for reporting critical safety issues, with half of the workers interviewed feeling that they couldn’t report actions that could lead to an incident to management.  Almost everyone felt they could raise “safety concerns and that these issues would be acted upon if this was within the immediate control of the rig” and indeed were encouraged to think about safety, but investigators also said that the workforce “felt that this level of influence was restricted to issues that could be resolved directly on the rig, and that they had little influence at Divisional or Corporate levels”:

“I’m petrified of dropping anything from heights not because I’m afraid of hurting anyone (the area is barriered off), but because I’m afraid of getting fired,” one worker wrote.

“The company is always using fear tactics,” another worker said. “All these games and your mind gets tired.”

Source: New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/us/22transocean.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2

Workers also felt that Transocean’s system for monitoring incidents was counter productive.  Many workers entered fake data into the system and as a result, the company’s perception of safety on the rig was distorted.

“A separate 112-page equipment assessment also commissioned by the company [and undertaken by Lloyd’s Register] concluded many key components had not been fully inspected since 2000 even though guidelines said it should be done every three to five years.

At least 26 components and systems on the rig were found to be in “bad” or “poor” condition.”

Source: http://www.SkyNews.com: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/Gulf-Of-Mexico-Oil-Disaster-Transocean-Reports-Highlight-Workers-Concerns-Over-Deepwater-Horizon/Article/201007415669165?lpos=Business_First_Buisness_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15669165_Gulf_Of_Mexico_Oil_Disaster%3A_Transocean_Reports_Highlight_Workers_Concerns_Over_Deepwater_Horizon

Transocean claims these relate to minor systems, however, the New York Times states that one of these systems included the blowout preventer rams and failsafe valves, the failure of which could have been a major contributor to the incident, although a spokesman for Transocean has said that all elements of the blowout preventer had been inspected by its original manufacturer.  The spokesman also noted that Deepwater Horizon had had “seven consecutive years without a single lost-time incident [LTI] or major environmental event.”

Source: New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/us/22transocean.html

Safety culture

The dangers of using the time since last LTI or major incident are well known, as they only tell you that you haven’t had an accident yet, and don’t reveal any problems that may be leading up to a future incident.  Their use can lead to complacency, drawing comparisons to a “ticking time bomb”, an analogy perhaps not out of place in this context.  The frequency of near misses would probably have served better as an indicator of safety, however the fact that staff were not recording incidents correctly suggests that near misses were not being reported.  As such, Transocean would not have had an accurate indicator of the level of safety on the rig as a result.

As more details slowly emerge from this incident, it will be interesting if any new findings appear that distinguish Deepwater Horizon from other incidents, such as Piper Alpha, Texas City, Buncefield, etc.  We certainly get an indicator that the safety culture on the rig was not where it should have been (although it is a little unclear at this point whether this refers to occupational safety culture, process safety culture, or both), and this is something that comes up time and time again in incident investigations.  As a case in point, also in recent news is the case of the 2009 collapse of a rail-line bridge in Co Dublin, Ireland.  “[The] report raises serious questions about the safety culture in Irish Rail”.  Source: Belfast Telegraph http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/doubts-over-safety-checks-before-belfastdublin-rail-viaduct-collapsed-14882933.html

A serious question to ask is, if this there was an issue with safety culture, was it localised at rig-level or was it a company-wide issue? 

Comments are welcome.

One size fits all? New anthropometric data available

July 21, 2010

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recently released new standards on anthropometric measurements, Basic human body measurements for technological design — Part 2: Statistical summaries of body measurements from individual ISO populations, (reference code TR 7250-2).

“[TR 7250-2] contains summary statistics for a number of anthropometric dimensions from various countries around the world. Along with ISO 7250-3 Basic human body measurements for technological design – Part 3: Worldwide and regional design values for use in ISO equipment standards, currently in preparation, TR 7250-2 aims to fundamentally change the way anthropometric data are incorporated into product standards.”

(Source: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society July Bulletin. http://www.hfes.org/web/HFESBulletin/Jul2010Standards.html)

Prior to the release of TR 7250-2, anthropometric data tables in these standards have been inconsistent and out of date. TR 7250-2 fixes this, however companies still will not be able to use this data straight away. This is because a) of how the data is presented, and b) because product standards are reviewed relatively slowly, meaning standards may become out of date. That’s where the up-and-coming TR 7250-3 comes in:

“This standard is reviewed on the same schedule as are product standards, so it will be stable for periods of at least 5 years.”

TR 7250-3 will also provide average data split by regions, allowing manufacturers to tailor their designs to specific populations.

TR 7250-2 is available now from www.iso.org.

24th November 2010 – Hearts and Minds introduction workshop

July 19, 2010

Prof. Dianne Parker, who is one of the original developers of the Hearts and Minds toolkit, will be presenting a half-day workshop hosted by the Energy Institute in partnership with the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF). The workshop has been organised in partnership with the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors as part of the IEHF’s Human and Organisational Factors in the Oil, Gas and Chemical Industries Conference (25th – 26th November 2010, Manchester). 

The workshop will focus on the Hearts and Minds toolkit, providing an introduction to the history and theory of Hearts and Minds, when and where it should be used, and how to use the toolkit.  Also included will be participative workshop activities for two of the tools – Understanding your culture and Managing rule-breaking – providing an insight into how the tools should be run and facilitated.  (See www.eimicrosites.org/heartsandminds for more info about Hearts and Minds).

Participants will be able to share knowledge and experiences as well as learn how to effectively implement safety culture change from one of the world’s leading behavioural safety specialists. The workshop will be highly useful to anyone planning on using Hearts and Minds or other cultural development tools and key personnel involved in the coordination and delivery of safety culture improvement programmes.  Participants can expect to gain an excellent introduction to Hearts and Minds, as well as a solid understanding on the best ways to use the tools.

For more details on how to register for this event, visit www.ogc2010.org.

A step ahead?

July 13, 2010

The EI recently attended the launch of Step Change in Safety’s new human factors publication Human factors: How to take the first steps… (see http://www.stepchangeinsafety.net/knowledgecentre/publications/publication.cfm/publicationid/22) launched in Aberdeen on 26th May 2010.

The event included a presentation by Rob Miles of the HSE, and Bill Gall of Kingsley Management, both members of the EI’s Human and Organisational Factors Working Group.  (Click http://energyinst.org/technical/human-and-organisational-factors/human-and-organisational-factors-incident-accident–invest-analy for the presentation given by Bill Gall).

The publication provides 12 real case studies, each one presenting an incident or near miss, including a release of burning material from a flare stack and a worker falling through a hole on an offshore platform.  Each case study briefly explains what happened, what were the immediate underlying causes that led to an incident (including what people did intentionally and unintentionally), and what barriers failed.  In doing so, the publication introduces the three major barriers of safety – plant and equipment; processes; and people – in a way that encourages their use in a ‘Swiss-cheese’ model (i.e. all three need to fail for the incident to happen).  The publication also encourages the reader to think about the different types of errors and non-compliances, helping them to think further than ‘human error’ as a (non-)explanation for accidents.

In practice, human factors practitioners may explore the case studies further to reveal even deeper underlying causes to the incidents other than those given for each incident (e.g. fatigue, working patterns, management style, etc.).  However, as Step Change say:

“The aim of this publication is to help raise awareness & understanding of human factors in accident causation & to encourage people, at all levels in an organisation, to take some simple steps to help manage human factors. It asks the reader to think about how this applies to their own work activities & encourages them to take action.”

The focus is on fixing immediate and obvious problems, and this is a very worthwhile goal – when it comes to improving safety, there is the temptation to over interpret findings at the expense of taking much needed action, which this publication may help to address.

How to take the first steps… is intended for use by frontline staff, and Step Change are looking for feedback on its use.  How are you using it?  Has it been successful?  Please contact Dave Nicholls e: Dave@stepchangeinsafety.net for more information or to provide feedback.

“The biggest myth in aviation”

July 7, 2010

When it comes to safety, the aviation industry is considered to be ahead of the game – they have to be, because a major incident such as a crash or explosion tends to have very large ramifications.  The airline business is dependent on safety.  The same is true of nuclear, where another Chenobyl could effectively end the industry.  Other industries tend to look to aviation and nuclear for the latest methods and thinking behind safety, where safety is the number one priority.

Volume 6, Issue 12 of System Safety Service’s newsletter (http://www.system-safety.com/Aviation%20HF%20News/AVIATION%20HUMAN%20FACTORS%20INDUSTRY%20NEWS.htm) questions this.  Is safety really the number one priority?

“The very [meaning] of the word “priority” requires that we evaluate competing [priorities]. So, calling safety a priority means it will change based on the needs or urgencies of the moment, such as trying to please a demanding customer or the boss to meet a schedule.

Admitting we might not always put safety first doesn’t mean we deliberately intend or want to be unsafe. But if we don’t have a logical, orderly process written down for everyone to follow, coupled with a firm management commitment, safety can easily take a backseat to the bottomline or the latest crisis du jour.”

Instead of making safety a ‘priority’, it’s much more important that safety is considered a value in the organisation.  Priorities change according to the moment, weighted up against each other and calculated.  Priorities are external to decisions.  However, values run-deep through an organisation and can be a part of every decision made.  The only question then is “how do you value safety”?  Not an easy question to answer…

See the System Safety Service website for more (linked above).