One well-worn, under-attributed statistic in process safety automation is that machinery is typically the cause in 10 percent of failures; the other 90 percent of the time, human error is to blame.
Lack of a source for this statistic notwithstanding, few people seem to argue the point that human error is the least predictable and more common source of breakdowns in safety.
With that in mind, John-Erlend Stromme, Service Manager, ABB Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Business Unit, , suggests that any company would benefit from a routine and systematic review of the way safety competence is built and maintained among its people.
“Competence is simply being aware that you are doing things right. A small mistake can start the ball rolling, and anytime we, as an industry, find ourselves looking at a major accident, it seems that’s ultimately how it started,” Stromme says.
Competence, however, is not simple. It’s a combination of having the right technical knowledge, knowledge of work processes and experience for whatever situation an individual may face.
“It’s not just knowing what you’re doing, but knowing how to follow procedures so you can avoid making an error you didn’t know about,” Stromme says.
Facets in mapping competence include documenting the type of education each worker has received, and what kind of experience, detailed to specific tasks and technologies. Requirements and certifications in specific work environments are considered as well.
More difficult but equally important, he notes, is to map an individual’s attitude to reducing risk and conducting high-risk work. “People around him will know whether he’s someone who tends to make a situation more or less safe. Whether you can get that information or not goes to the culture of the company: Do they dare to tell you,” he says, “or do they dare not to tell you?
“When you take seriously this process of understanding the competence of each worker, as an individual, that says a lot about the importance of safety in an organization,” Stromme says. “You’ll get the level of information that you have earned, based on past experiences that your people have. If you demonstrate an open mind and attitude – that people won’t be punished, and that information will be used to help everyone become better and safer at their job – you are already doing a very good job of reducing risk in your operation.”
Check back next week for the summary and link to download the entire white paper. And as always, we look forward to your comments.