Most Oil and Gas Operators and service organizations have identified ‘Golden Rules’ intended to focus attention and influence safety behavior in their operations. Whilst these rules have successfully raised awareness of key safety hazards, the majority focus on occupational safety issues, such as lifting, confined space entry, electrical safety, etc, without explicitly addressing process safety or ‘major hazard’ issues. A recurrent theme from investigations into major accidents has been the recognition that occupational safety and process safety need to be treated differently. Concentrating on occupational safety metrics and controls will not necessarily positively influence process safety and environmental performance.
Recognizing that Oil and Gas Operators undertake operations within a major accident hazard environment, a set of process safety behaviors is proposed that focus the attention of workforce and management on the actions, behaviors and attitudes that will help to prevent or mitigate the consequences of a major accident event (MAE/MATTE). These are based on such concepts as ‘maintaining a chronic sense of unease’ and ‘responding strongly to weak signals’; concepts which have emerged from recent major accidents - such as Texas City, Macondo and Buncefield.
The opportunity exists to reconsider whether industry's focus is informed by an understanding of the broader operating risk portfolio. Effective engagement of key members of the operating organisation, both on and offshore in this key topic area is dependent upon its capacity to define and articulate risk management priorities. The competent, consistent and confident management of major accident hazards across the organisation is inextricably linked to this process. The inclusion of major accident priorities within focused campaigns and the explicit definition of mitigation responsibilities throughout the organisation could promote improvement in process safety performance.
This approach will enhance the process safety performance of organisations, and provide a change in the perception of process safety.