The Weekly Reflektion Week 49 / 2020

When there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything you need to get done, then you won’t have time to do everything and/or you don’t have time to do everything properly. Time pressures may lead to shortcuts, unfinished conversations with incorrect conclusions and hastily made decisions. Time pressure may lead to serious incidents.

Do you let the time you don’t have get in the way of the right discussions and decisions?

In last week’s Reflektion I told the story of a discussion with the team leader at my son’s childcare centre. She talked about the way they had tackled a difficult child by finding something positive and using this to create constructive feedback. As I was writing I thought of our Reflektion a few weeks ago ‘Are you too busy that you don’t have time to do your job’?

Many years ago, when I also had young children, I had a working day that was different to the one I described when I had time to talk to the team leader. Up in the morning, breakfast, drive children to the kindergarten (opens 0730 hrs.) 15 km away (traffic), drive to work 5 kms away (traffic) morning meeting at 0800 hrs. Day at work in Operations until 1600 hrs. Drive to kindergarten (traffic), pick up children before kindergarten closes at 1630, drive home (traffic), dinner, family, kids in bed 1930 hrs.. We had moved into a house that we were renovating and redecorating so evenings were spent with hammer and paintbrush. In bed just after midnight, sleep and prepare for next day. The chances of me getting to know the names of the people at the kindergarten, let alone having a conversation with anyone was zero. No time for reflection and no time to learn about constructive feedback.

Sometimes the lack of time has more serious consequences. The Buncefield Storage and Loading Facility for fuel including unleaded petrol, kerosene, aviation fuel and dieselwas the 5th largest storage facility in the UK. At 1900 hrs on the 10th December 2005 the operators started to fill tank 912 with lead free petrol. At 0538 hrs. on the 11th December the tank overflowed, and a vapour cloud started to build up in the tank bunded area. At 0601 hrs. the vapour cloud ignited, and the resulting explosion was one of the biggest in the UK since World War 2. The resulting fires in 20 storage tanks took 3 days to get under control. Luckily, no one was killed but 43 people were injured. The level measurement system wasunreliable, and the high-level trip was inoperative. The CCR was under manned and the workload recently increased. The operators did not have time to monitor all the tanks that were being filled or emptied as well as carrying out their other duties. They knew the monitoring was unreliable as there had been 14 reports of incorrect measurement in the previous 3 months. They used alarm clocks to warn themselves when a tank was nearly full. The high-level switch on the tank incidentally had not been properly re-instated after maintenance.

When the pressures of time combine with failures in process safety systems then you are on course for a Major Accident. What course are you on?

Reflekt AS