One of the most cost-effective methods of work organisation for manufacturing industry is self-managing teams (SMTs). SMTs have an established track record of improving productivity, job satisfaction and employee involvement. There has been a recent trend for onshore and offshore petrochemicals and process industry operators to implement SMTs. A fundamental aspect of SMTs is devolving day-to-day responsibility and decision-making to employees, and reducing or eliminating the role of the first-line supervisor. However, the suitability of SMTs for safety-critical operations has been questioned, and anecdotal evidence exists of flawed implementation and lapses in safety.
This paper summarises the results of (a) a joint industry project, funded by the UK Health and Safety Executive (Offshore Safety Division) and BP Oil, which examined the safety implications of self-managed teams and (b) operator experience of SMT implementation on BP's Miller Field from 1995 to date.
Planning for the post-plateau years of the Miller platform in the North Sea truly commenced whilst the installation was still in the blocks in Newcastle. However, detailed research for the shape of an offshore organisation that would see the facilities into anticipated post-plateau and other, then unknown, challenges, commenced in 1995. Implementation of a project to install SMTs commenced in 1996 and since that time considerable progress has been made in developing the practical application of self-managing teams in an offshore environment. The platform management team may claim only modest success with SMTs, but in reality the project has delivered considerable revenue savings to the Miller business and above all has made a significant contribution to the HSE programme for the business. Our belief is that through SMTs Miller will be enabled to deliver exemplary business, and especially, exemplary HSE performance.