Only Human

Posted by Ivor Smith on 06 December 2017 | 0 Comments Articles

Working together is key The drive to further enhance the health and safety standards of the oil and gas industry is a never ending process.

The sector has indeed been commended for the all-encompassing approach it has adopted in devising and implementing comprehensive procedures and policies to help ensure operations are carried out as safely as possible.

One important area, and one which many of the industry initiatives and campaigns have centred on, is the importance of human factors in incidents.


Defined by the UK Health & Safety executive as issues which “refer to 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”, human factors have been found to play a major role in the majority of the accidents in the energy sector.

Indeed, human factors have been determined as the root cause of many of the high profile incidents that have grabbed the global news headlines, including the Piper Alpha disaster and the Texas City refinery explosion.

confidence doesn’t always equal competence

Companies can invest vast resources in creating the most detailed, innovative and robust procedures but any such efforts can be entirely wasted, if human factors are not fully taken into consideration, with human intervention and compliance at the heart of many safety management systems.

For example, one issue that is vital to consider in relation to human factor elements in health and safety, is hazard awareness – identifying and, crucially, reporting any potential dangers.

It’s imperative that staff are not only aware of any hazard reporting procedures but that they are empowered to act on any such situation. After all everyone is a safety leader – safety leadership is a behaviour, not a position.

Safety leadership is a behaviour not a position When delivering a safety presentation, we often use a magical illustration that practically highlights the passive – but extremely dangerous – nature many people adopt when they encounter a potential hazard.

The routine entails an effect where a volunteer and the presenters undertake what appears to be an unsafe act. When we ask audience members how they felt during the illustration, most attendees advise that they felt very uneasy and uncomfortable throughout.

We then highlight that, despite their unease, they made a choice not to intervene and that is why, in many instances, accidents and injuries are still happening in the workplace.

Sometimes workers don’t challenge potentially unsafe actions due to assumptions about competency levels particularly if someone appears confident in their role.

However, ‘confidence doesn’t always equal competence’ and it’s extremely important that staff, working at all levels, are enabled and encouraged to bring attention to any potential hazard.

Recognising the significant impact which human factors can have on companies’ work – and putting appropriate procedures in place to minimise any potential dangers – will have a major impact on the quest to make oil and gas operations as safe as humanly possible.

Ultimately, we are all human and we all make mistakes. When working in hazardous working environments these mistakes often involve putting ourselves, and others, at risk.

Get in touch to find out how we can engage your staff with key safety behaviours and attitudes using our unique safety magic presentations and workshops.

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