Human Factors – OEUK HSE Conference

Our Projects Director, Calum MacLean, had the pleasure of presenting at the OEUK HSE Conference this year to discuss a Human Factors approach to FPSO confined space entry. 

MTL has been managing and conducting large and complex confined space repair projects on producing FPSO’s almost every day over the past 15 years. Despite these activities normally being considered high risk, the MTL approach has consistently avoided both major and minor incidents even though there has been many different leaders and supporting personnel associated with these projects over the years.  

Calum explained how the planning and preparation of these works had been risk assessment driven from the initial stages with a strong focus on hazard elimination and the implementation of engineering controls as a first line of protection. These controls do not require human participation and therefore largely eliminate the risk of barrier failure due to human factors (human error, lack of concentration, communication failure, fatigue, etc.)  

The clearest example is MTL’s ventilation and power distribution systems, which automatically alarm in the event of gas detection on air intakes, isolate all hotwork equipment and prevent ingress of gas into the work area. The equipment is designed to be easy to operate with clear, pictorial alarm messages. These executive actions require no communication between the personnel in the confined space and the tank sentry, therefore there is no scope for misunderstanding or error. 

Where risk assessment control actions must rely on people following procedures, using equipment correctly and responding appropriately to instructions, MTL has developed very simple consistent guidance which we use across all projects and sites. A good example is the emergency response instructions for confined spaces which involve raising alarms, specific communications from the tank sentry and appropriate, predictable actions/response by the personnel in the confined space. The tank alarm guide and rescue plan documentation alone would be insufficient. It is also necessary to conduct exercises on the specific site, with the people who are involved in the project.  

The main message from Calum’s presentation is that good safety performance isn’t an accident. It is the result of a strong focus on safety throughout the project and always considering that for each control requiring human participation we should make it easier for people to follow the desired approach than to make a mistake.