By Linda Hsieh, Managing Editor
The industry agrees that process safety is important, yet it can’t seem to really agree on what process safety actually means for drilling. Mark Campbell-Howes, Head of Process Safety at Maersk Drilling, doesn’t believe that should be an obstacle to progress. “In order to move forward with our collective understanding of process safety, we have to be comfortable with the fact that our opinion is evolving on what process safety is… In order to actually drive change, we need to move from talking about what it is and what we need to do, to actually having people do it.”
Speaking at the 2014 IADC Drilling HSE Europe Conference in Amsterdam on 24 September, Mr Campbell-Howes described a three-step process that Maersk is taking to build a set of management principles, or a framework, to support the company’s management of process safety.
The first step is to build a basis for the framework by establishing context. “Process safety, in essence, is business risk. We are talking about management of major accident events which have the capability to materially affect our business,” he said. “In order to sustain business success, it’s imperative that we have good process safety management. So why is establishing a context important? We need to establish all sources of risk. We need to go beyond the hazards that exist in the safety case.”
Ultimately, he explained, establishing context is a way to help companies define the scope of what they want to include in the process safety framework. Maersk Drilling used the ISO 31000 risk management guidelines as a basis for discussion and to brainstorm every risk that could affect its operations.
This step of the process also involves deciding what you want to manage and then developing a set of universal terminologies. “There are a very large number of considerations within process safety management. You really need to cherry pick the ones that have the highest priority to your organization in terms of risk management. Trying to manage everything at once will be incredibly difficult,” Mr Campbell-Howes said.
Developing universal terminology is essential to ensuring understanding around such key terms as process safety incident, high-potential incident, near-miss and unsafe behavior. “These are all things that you need to have tangible definitions of that can be universally applied. Otherwise, there will be ambiguity in your intent.”
Maersk Drilling has publicly shared its definition of process safety:
To us, process safety involves managing a multitude of safety controls to ensure that we avoid major incidents. Controls exist both in our procedures and our safety culture, as well as in the design of our equipment, the technical specifications of our assets and how it is all operated and maintained.
“From this you can tell we are not necessarily limiting our definition of process safety to something like well control. We are trying to look at all sources of major incidents and include it within our process safety management framework,” Mr Campbell-Howes said.
The second step in this framework-building process is to have a vehicle for delivery – a way to operationalize your framework. Maersk Drilling decided to do this through barrier management. “We find it’s a very effective way of visualizing and simplifying the overall risk profile of the organization. It’s also a close relative of the bow-tie analysis, which many of our offshore stakeholders are already familiar with,” he explained. “Finally, it emphasizes that barriers themselves are not just bits of kit. They’re not just safety or environmentally critical elements. Barriers are actually an interdependent network of barrier elements.”
For each barrier, he continued, there may be one specific technical piece of equipment, but that one specific piece of equipment may be supported by operational controls that support numerous technical pieces of equipment. All of that is then supported by a single human and organizational barrier. “It’s possible to have more than one technical barrier element supported by the same operational controls, and all those operational controls are basically supported by the same factors of culture, competence and leadership that influence human performance.”
The third step of the process is having a strategy for making it work, and Maersk Drilling chose a simple approach of plan, do, study and act. Under the planning stage, he pointed out, it’s essential to define a technical authority for every element in your process safety framework. “Within Maersk, we have a technical authority framework, so be it for well control equipment, be it for subsea, we have one point within our organization where a specific responsibility for a performance standard associated with that one particular element, and they are responsible for any changes within the framework in that regard.”
As companies go through this process, Mr Campbell-Howes urged discipline in maintaining alignment with the original objectives that were set out. “It’s very tempting when you begin to start measuring process safety performance that you get carried away and start thinking about what else you can achieve. But having a defined scope supported by universal definitions with agreed objectives and agreed stakeholders, it’s imperative that you maintain an alignment to ensure everyone buys into the idea.”