The Weekly Reflektion Week 47 / 2020

When people are exposed to hazards the situation may require them to react instinctively, that is without ‘thinking’. There are several factors that could influence their reaction. If we understood these factors perhaps, we could influence them to ensure the reactions prevented any harm or accident.

What do people think about when they react instinctively?

Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician and philosopher best known for his work on ‘process philosophy’ and his views on reality. Whitehead made a statement “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.’ We at Reflekt wonder whether this may be appropriate to advancing safety and Major Accident prevention.

I started my offshore career on the BP Forties Charlie platform in 1981. One of my tasks was running pressure build up surveys in the wells. These were run on wireline. Before running the surveys, the valves on the Xmas tree and downhole safety valve were tested to make sure they functioned. On one of the wells the downhole safety valve (DHSV) failed its test and had to be replaced. The faulty valve was removed by wireline and a replacement valve was being prepared for running into the well. There were three wireline operators involved in the job including an apprentice on his first tour. The procedure used was to lift the valve (200 kg) into the bottom section of the lubricator with the crane andhold it in place with shims to attach the wireline. When the wireline was connected the shims gave way and the DHSV fell pulling the wireline after it. The two experienced operators stood back and raised their hands in the air. The apprentice grabbed at the wireline and tried to stop the DHSV falling. He received severe cuts to his palms and fingers as the speeding wire cut through his hands. When asked whether he thought he could have stopped the 200 kg valve falling down he replied that he didn’t think he just reacted to the situation. The experienced operators had learned through their experience how to react to this type of situation. A person on his/her first time on a worksite may react differently to the people that have been there for a while.

When we cross the road, we are taught to look left then right then left again, or right then left and right again depending on what side of the road the traffic drives on. After a while we don’t think about it anymore, we just do it. It has become an operation that we can perform without thinking. What are the operations we need to perform without thinking to ensure our activities are carried out safely? 

We are certainly not advocating that you put thinking aside when planning and executing our activities. We are advocating that you consider the experience of the people involved in any activity and how they may react to a hazardous or uncertain situation. There are experienced people leaving the industry and new people replacing them. Do you have buddy or mentor programs to guide inexperienced people so they may gain the benefits without getting the pain? If inexperienced people are involved do you plan the pace of the activity to account for this inexperience?

Reflekt AS