Many of the risks facing oil and gas operators are related to organisational as well as asset integrity failures. Beatrijs van de Ven reports.
Managing risks is one of the most important functions within asset management, as oil and gas companies seek to avoid incidents that can have a far-reaching negative impact on their business. But the root causes of incidents are not always directly related to the physical assets themselves. In many cases organisational and human factors have a big role to play.
"Each individual needs to understand the core concepts involved in effective integrity management, and how their own actions can have a decisive impact," says Jos Van der Aelst, Principal Consultant at Stork Technical Services.
Out of the complex portfolio of risks to which oil and gas companies are exposed, many are in fact associated with the processes and systems in place and with human factors in the operation and management of the facilities and assets. That's why an organisational integrity culture is not just an afterthought, something to be addressed separately, but it needs to be embedded in the operational and asset management systems, and integrity has to be embodied in the people themselves.
In the context of the oil and gas industry, a broad definition of organisational integrity is: Integrated, consistent approaches and behaviour leading to 'knowing what are the right things to do and doing the right things'.[Page Break]
Root causes of incidents
Oil and gas companies are facing a lot of risks. These may be financial and commercial, as well as related to the actual operation and management of facilities and assets. These risks can lead to minor or major incidents with a potentially wide-ranging impact on the company's business values - for example in areas like health, safety, security, the environment, profitability, customer delivery, asset lifetime, image, license to operate etc.
Investigations of incidents show that the root causes were not only asset-related, but in many cases were related to a lack of organisational integrity. Some of the reported causes were:
- The organisation was not adequately prepared for incident management.
- The required resources were lacking.
- Personnel did not show the desired behaviour, and this was tolerated by management.
- The right processes and procedures were not in place.
To ensure that potential causes like these do not lead to incidents, oil and gas companies need to install a series of barriers from both the asset and organisational points of view. The 'preventive' barriers have the task of avoiding incidents. While if despite the presence of these barriers a hazard still turns into an incident, a series of 'mitigation' barriers is needed to minimise the impact of the incident as far as possible. These barriers are represented by the 'Swiss cheese model' shown in Fig. 1.[Page Break]
Achieving organisational integrity
Achieving an organisational integrity culture requires the implementation and maintenance of a series of fundamental building blocks (see Fig. 2). These start with defining the values and derived behaviour that a company needs to drive its business. These values form the compass and the reference for the behaviour of the people within the organisation.
Leadership is crucial in introducing, implementing and maintaining these values. Organisational integrity cannot be achieved without excellent leadership to drive the desired behaviour. As well as that all personnel must be involved, and must understand what 'integrity' means for them and what is expected from them. Leaders and managers therefore have to set the example, and must communicate the organisational integrity values to all personnel and drive the desired behaviour. If they fail to do this, a company will never succeed in achieving organisational integrity. As Eisenhower stated: "The supreme quality for leadership is integrity".
The integrity management system forms the framework for the operation of the organisation - it provides the vision and the 'business' code of conduct on policy and strategy, processes, organisation, people and resources.[Page Break]
Strong focus on safety at Stork
As a provider of asset integrity management services, Stork Technical Services has a strong focus on safety and on the prevention of incidents. The company's award-winning REACH safety programme is broadly deployed in the organisation, and aims to provide continuous performance improvement in all areas related to Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ). This starts with management leadership, and empowers employees by giving each individual the authority to challenge unsafe behaviour and actions and to respond positively to such interventions. Performance improvement is based on sharing common goals, close monitoring of the relevant performance indicators, benchmarking against industry standards and managing a continuous improvement system with SMART objectives to ensure ongoing development. Information on performance is constantly and proactively shared with employees and customers, but also externally, as the only contractor in the industry to do so.[Page Break]
Consistent, long-term approach required
"We've gained a lot of experience in implementing and maintaining an organisational integrity culture, and we know that it isn't an easy journey", concludes Jos Van der Aelst. "Realising the required leadership and self-governing participation of personnel requires a consistent, long-term approach. But there's no alternative. Organisational integrity is a prerequisite for successful asset management and sustainable business continuity. Safety and/or environmental incidents are no longer tolerated - any incident can endanger the company's licence to operate. And of course organisational integrity also helps to ensure continuity in business growth and profitability."
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Beatrijs van de Ven is with Stork Technical Services, Utrecht, The Netherlands. www.storktechnicalservices.com