Knowledge critical to safe operations needs capturing for sharing
Formal knowledge risk management is key to maintaining safety
Emerging or skills gaps can be countered by reducing knowledge risk
A new software app helps to lessen the risk of knowledge loss
Thirty years after the Piper Alpha tragedy, and despite huge improvements in oil and gas safety since, regulators worldwide remain concerned over major accident hazard management (MAHM). They are watching for any sign that gaps in safety-related skills may potentially arise and lead to a higher incidence of major accidents in an industry picking up after the oil price downturn.
One sign of persistent concern came in a report in early 2018 from an industry-government working group for a Norwegian government review of offshore health, safety, and environmental performance. It commented that although the level of health, safety, and the working environment offshore Norway was high, safety challenges and serious conditions have arisen in the past few years.1
Operators seeking enhanced but cost-effective approaches to MAHM are turning not only to new technologies, but also to management processes that optimize the huge value that experienced people can bring to safe operations in the global oil and gas industry.
Companies that formally manage ‘knowledge risk’ to identify, capture, share, and re-use information can extract need-to-know, safety-related information from experts and departments. It is a safeguard against the potential loss of safety-critical knowledge if staff move within the industry or leave it.
Knowledge risk moves up the agenda
Regulators and industry leaders acknowledge the importance of safety knowledge transfer among people within the workforce.
Speaking at a June 2018 conference discussing the safety legacy of Piper Alpha2, Martin Temple, chair of the UK safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, said: “What we want to get out of today is the transfer of knowledge from people who were there at the time [of Piper Alpha].” He expressed the hope that lessons from and since Piper Alpha will be handed to younger people to carry the legacy forward.
Accidents usually result from complex interactions between people and plant. “This is why the oil and gas industry needs rigorous systems to check for weaknesses in both elements,” said Hari Vamadevan, senior vice president, DNV GL - Oil & Gas, in addressing the same conference. He observed that while risk management processes to enhance safety are important, people can be ignorant of the risk.
With the cost of ignorance being potentially high in terms of human lives and financial consequences, the industry faces a knowledge risk challenge. Advanced technologies and better use of data are helping to meet it, but the human factor in safety control remains central to the design and implementation of knowledge risk management strategies.