Better Safety Performance Measures Can Lead to Change by Improving Conversations
- Adam Wilson (JPT Special Publications Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 76 - 78
- 2018. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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- 26 since 2007
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This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 190663, “Building Better Performance Measures for Better Conversations To Provoke Change,” by A.D. Gower-Jones, W.T. Peuscher, J. Groeneweg, SPE, S. King, and M. Taylor, Tripod Foundation, prepared for the 2018 SPE International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility, Abu Dhabi, 16–18 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
For the last 40 years, the oil and gas industry has measured safety performance using injury-frequency rates. Industry thinking is based on the premise that, if we do not have injuries, then we are safe and, if we have injuries, we are not safe. This paper examines the fallacy of that premise and the use of injury rates as a key performance indicator (KPI). It argues that, as a KPI, injury-frequency rate is no longer a valid measure.
The Current Situation
As a KPI, injury-frequency rate has served the industry well. It has driven ownership of safety performance as a line responsibility, allowed senior executives to hold managers accountable for performance, forced leaders to notice injuries, and driven many improvements.
A graph showing performance over a 2-year period would be discussed at management meetings, reasons argued, and actions given to business unit leaders. The data could create a discussion along the lines of “Overall performance is clearly going in the wrong direction. We all need to be concerned.” Pointing to one cause would be difficult, and many theories would be put forward on the basis of this data.
Why Measuring Injury Rates Is Misleading
Research into accident causation has revealed much in the last 30 years. Earlier work resulted in the Swiss Cheese Model (Fig. 1), the Generic Error Modeling System (GEMS) (Fig. 2), and the Tripod Model of Accident Causation (Fig. 3). Two software-based products have been produced from these models; Tripod Beta and Bow Tie analysis both are now mainstream.
Safety leaders no longer think that people are the only cause of accidents (i.e., stupid people doing stupid things). They understand that errors and violations are the product of systemic causes. Accidents happen because barriers fail. Barriers fail because of people’s action or inaction. People are generally trying to do a good job, but they are influenced by their environment. That working environment is created by the way the business is managed.
Accidents are complex events with multiple causes. Controls that fail can be a long distance from, and not related to, individuals who are injured. Normally, more than one control needs to fail before someone is injured. Often, those controls are put in place by different people at different times—an operator isolates equipment, a supervisor checks the isolation, and a technician works on the equipment.
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