By Joanne Liou, associate editor
Within BP operations, every lift requires a lift plan – no exceptions. At the 2013 API Offshore Safe Lifting Conference on 17 July in Houston, Kevin Boyle, BP upstream segment lifting technical authority, discussed the system the company has in place to ensure safe lifting operations around the world. “We try to take an approach where we do it right, we do it once, we spend time to get it right and we reuse it whenever possible,” he said, “but we continually improve it. We learn by our mistakes, and we update the plan to make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes.”
In the earliest stage of the lifting process, there is an opportunity to improve safety by design – ensuring the equipment is designed “so the piece only fits one way, only fits the right way,” Mr Boyle stated. Ensuring appropriate design across constructability, operability and maintainability weeds out potential risks, but doing this also requires communication with the site team about the front-end work. “We do a lot of work at the beginning; we design lifting locks, we know the angles and limitations and slings that we’re allowed to use,” he said, stressing that all this information must be communicated to the site team effectively.
Preparation for a lift encompasses ensuring the competencies of people and the integrity of equipment. BP has defined specific roles and responsibilities, including competency levels, for its personnel and contractors. Three levels of competency and training are in place – segment lifting authority, regional lifting authority and site lifting coordinators. “We need to put the right person at the right position at the right level of competency to do the job,” Mr Boyle said. This competency scheme is supported by 16 e-learning courses and three instructor-led courses.
Part of verifying equipment integrity is the failure mode effect analysis, where “we take single point failures within a crane and find out what the single point failures are. We set our maintenance track around those single point failures, and we try to design out single-point failures,” Mr Boyle explained.
In the past, BP utilized a four-category system for lifts; however, the company realized that the Category 1 and Category 2 lifts did not signal any difference in the management systems – the same people approved the lifts – “so we’ve integrated those two categories together and come up with a three-category system,” Mr Boyle said. Categorization charts differ among onshore, offshore, subsea and marine operations, although they are all linked back to a bow tie analysis for lifting to ensure the right personnel are directing the right level of risk. “Complexity of the operation is coming into the categorization, the environment and ties back to the bow ties so the right level of sign-off is being done by the right, confident person.”
Hazard identification or risk assessment is the main method BP uses to control risks on site, Mr Boyd stated. As many accidents involve hand placement, it’s important that personnel stay away from the load when possible; this may not always be easy because the instinct often is to grab a load with hands. “I want to try to change the default so the default is to stay away from the load unless we need to determine that not touching the load isn’t the best effort,” he said. Access to the lift area is another risk that has been reconsidered; there’s no reason for anyone who’s not essential to the operation to be in the area. “Just because they are on permit doesn’t mean they should be allowed in the area,” Mr Boyd noted.
Although BP has set requirements for its own lift plans, the company’s contractors are allowed to use their own lift planning formats as long as they meet BP requirements. Details, such as how to handle the load and where hands will be placed, must be considered in lift plans. BP requirements also ensure different lifting environments are seen as distinct situations so one plan does not apply to all onshore, offshore, subsea and marine operations. Further, each lift must be categorized appropriately to reflect the complexity of the specific operation.
A system is in place to check lift plans, make sure they are authorized and endorsed depending on lift complexities, and define competencies. For example, the site lifting coordinator authorizes Category 3 lifts, but they also have to be endorsed by the lifting technical authority due to its complexity, Mr Boyd noted. A site lifting coordinator can authorize Category 2 lifts independently but can also request higher review.
Key step-by-step requirements must be included in the execution of the lift plan. Personnel need to know what they need to do, what they’re about to do and what they should be doing, Mr Boyle said. “You can only do that if you break down the operation into manageable size chunks. … If we have a defined system which we work to and we continue to improve it, it’s only a matter of time before we get very good at what we’re doing.”
“The biggest part of what we’re trying to achieve is learning,” Mr Boyle stated. “It’s where we have the biggest opportunity to improve.” After each lift, BP’s system provides workers the opportunity to share ideas for improvement, and the plan is updated to reflect learnings. Further, technical authorities representing all parts of BP’s global operations meet regularly via teleconference to discuss successes and failures. “If we do have an accident, incident or even a near-miss, if somebody finds a better way of doing something,” Mr Boyle explained, “it doesn’t matter if it’s in Norway or America or Indonesia, it works, and we should learn from everybody.”