Chapter 17: Human Factors and Ergonomics Practice in the Oil and Gas Industry: Contributions to Design and Operations

by Rob W. Miles and Ian Randle

Practitioner summary

Oil and gas installations are particularly hazardous both for personnel and the environment. The oil and gas industry has traditionally relied upon generic human factors and ergonomics (HF/E) standards for equipment design, overlooking the other aspects of the HF/E systems approach, including the characteristics of the users, tasks, working environment and organisational factors. Relatively recently, however, following high-profile accidents, the industry has started to consider human contributions to major accident risks. Recent initiatives by industry bodies, regulators and major operating companies are now starting to get HF/E taken seriously. To fully realise the potential of the formal HF/E analyses they should be carried into the work planning and operational procedures. This chapter looks at HFE in oil and gas from the viewpoints of major capital projects and assessing human factors in the operating asset.

Chapter quotes

“…the industry has a historical pioneering culture, and prides itself in being able to build and operate assets in the most extreme conditions.”

“There are a number of different players: operating companies (private and state owned), engineering companies, large vendors/subcontracted operators, etc., with complicated interactions. The design and engineering of new assets is usually contracted out by the operating companies (e.g., Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips) to specialist engineering and construction contractors. These contractors may not receive direct feedback on the success of, or problems with, their previous designs in the field, and most engineers designing the asset will not have worked on or even visited an operating installation. This is a barrier to the continuous improvement in design that has been seen in some other industries.”

“This crude ‘one size fits all’ approach found favour in its simplicity and coherence with the contemporary engineering design approaches. However, it lacked fundamental aspects of the HF/E systems approach to design. That is, it did not take account of the specific target audience, the organisational factors, the particular tasks being undertaken, or the range of working environments encountered for the installation being designed.”

“There will be many issues that have been raised before with no progress, often because the message has been lost when it reached on-shore management or there was perceived to be no practical solution. Make the message clear, and link it to the risk controls in the safety case so that it is in management terms, then provide a possible solution or at least a path to a solution.”

Practitioner reflections



About drclairewilliams

I am a senior consultant at Human Applications and Visiting Research Fellow in Human Factors and Behaviour Change at the University of Derby. Most of my work just now deals with leadership and culture in the health and safety realm; trying to support organisations to take a systems approach to understanding behaviour. I blog in a personal capacity. Views expressed here are mine and not those of any affiliated organisation, unless stated otherwise. You can find me on twitter at @claire_dr
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