Eliminating Barriers to Data Sharing and Solutions
The newly formed Ocean Energy Safety Institute (OESI) held its second major event at the University of Houston on August 12 and 13, and we learned a great deal from it. There were many knowledgeable speakers and attendees truly passionate about pursuing solutions for offshore safety. This second forum focused on “eliminating barriers to data sharing and solutions” in oil and gas operations.
Reducing risk and incidents are priorities for OESI
This forum brought together experts from industry, academia, government and other organizations to examine how data can be better utilized to increase safety and environmental responsibility in offshore operations. There were discussions on what data is relevant (e.g. “lessons learned,” instrumentation data), how to capture it, how to share it and how to utilize it. Recurrent themes included what is the value proposition for companies and how do companies incorporate “lessons learned.”
Setting the stage for improved solutions
I believe this was a great event that is going to set the stage for improved solutions. There were differing opinions on ways forward as is always the case.
The one consistent theme among attendees; everyone wants to increase safety offshore and to seek logical and productive ways forward. I believe this is a very positive sign.
Partnership leads to results
The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center (an OESI partner along with Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston) has a strong track record of producing valuable research and improving process safety in facilities.
Thus, I agree with sentiments mentioned at the event:
The OESI presents great opportunities for solution makers from various parties to come together and get results.
Process safety management in oil and gas
The oil & gas industry is particularly challenging due to rapidly advancing technology that has to be incorporated into major construction projects involving so many people at so many stages. When we demonstrate improved ways forward, we will undoubtedly help other industries to attain better solutions as well.
Some of the mentioned potential benefits of shared data across oil & gas companies include:
- Improved standards
- Improved supplier relationships
- Greater success and safety with new frontiers requiring greater technologies
Keys to success
It was mentioned many times at the forum that we need to know what we want before sharing data and that it’s all about people and “actionables.” Converting data to real knowledge is the key for sure.
For example, there needs to be effective ways/systems for companies to take “near miss” (some use the term “near hit”) reporting data and spread that information to appropriate parties to create “lessons learned” and then further spread those “lessons learned” so that they are taken into account in company decision making.
There can be improvements on two major fronts here:
1) helping design, assembly, construction and operations personnel to better understand issues and consequences, so they can work together to improve operational processes along with behaviors and decisions made.
2) helping identify opportunities for improved designs, technologies, methods and overall ways of getting oil and gas out of the ground that will remove or mitigate risk.
In both cases, people from various groups in companies must come together on solutions that will work for them. It’s all about teamwork.
Surfacing – What companies need
Having been to the first two OESI forums now, I definitely do appreciate the format the leaders and organizers have created. The speakers at the main sessions are knowledgeable and passionate about the goal of improving safety, and thus, the ensuing discussions surface what companies need to move forward.
The varied breakout sessions help focus on specifics and what can be done to make progress while allowing greater opportunity for participation. I learned a great deal from the breakout sessions I was a part of at both the first forum on risk held in May and this most recent forum on data sharing and solutions.
How should industry manage risk?
I participated in breakout session 2 (of 3) at the Risk Forum in May which asked the questions “What is an acceptable level of risk? How should industry manage risk?” Our group identified what should be addressed to move forward.
An important step that was noted is to:
“Develop a method or framework to adequately describe and communicate risk management.”
The following ideas were also pointed out.
“The learning curve of Process safety should be accelerated, through OESI or other groups and take advantage of others learning programs/curves.”
“There is an opportunity to come with a unified way of assessing things that will allow comparison, both internally and externally.”
We further determined that managers and employees should proactively address decisions that impact risk to improve employee competency, motivate good behavior, improve methods and advance management’s barriers to risk.
In the August OESI forum, there were again three breakout sessions, and I participated in session 3 which was on “Gaps in Equipment Reliability Data and Near Miss (Eliminating Barriers to Disseminate Data).”
Becoming a safer industry
We clarified that we need to focus on “actionable” learnings and that getting initiatives started can lead to continuous improvement and improved standards. It was agreed that we don’t want to reinvent the wheel and that we should look at examples of what has already worked for various groups and functions.
We further identified “human factors” as an important area that can drive a lot of improvement in companies. For example, it’s important to seek clean handoffs and understanding among groups so that equipment is properly installed and operated. This is a real, serious issue. Improving processes from product development to manufacturing, assembly and operations can lead us to becoming a much safer industry.
A great opportunity
Based on my background in engineering and workforce development for engineers and operations personnel, I can attest to the fact that there is great opportunity for various groups to come together on real solutions.
Employees want to be a part of solutions, to improve and to see the results of their efforts. I’ve been a part of product development groups that have benefited significantly from the help of materials groups, improving their material selection and systems.
Product development groups helped operations groups to better understand designs and procedures, and operations personnel, in turn, helped design engineers to address their challenges. Feedback to engineering and supporting functions can be very useful. People have to clearly see benefits and work together to create and disseminate “lessons learned” while determining what various parties are going to do based on the decisions they face.
Oil & gas companies are looking for ways to better address Health, Safety and Environmental concerns earlier in the design process. Employees have the power to do this and to improve “human factors.”
It was stated many times at the forum, and I completely agree;
If people in the industry see the benefits of improved collaboration, we will make great progress in terms of safety and productivity.
About the OESI
You can learn more about the OESI, its mission and partners, at their website and by reading my previous article: