The Weekly Reflektion 26/2024

Prevention of Major Accidents is one of the primary goals for the management in any company. Continually finding and making improvements that will reduce major accident risk is challenging. Improvements need to be prioritised within the contraints of budgets and available time and resources. Consideration needs to be given to the effort and likely impact. Sometimes the term ‘low hanging fruits’ is used to illustrate the importance of making simple changes that ensure progress in the right direction.

With regard to Major Accident prevention, do you do what you can, with all you have, wherever you are?

Kari Nessa Nordtun became Education Minister in Norway on 16th October 2023. One of her first steps was to recommend a ban on mobile phones in schools. Following her appointment, she was invited to participate in a televised debate and was asked about the proposed ban. The debate leader asked her whether she believed that this was most important measure to improve educations standards. She stated that she had no doubt that banning mobile phones would lead to better education. She didn’t necessarily believe mobile phone use was the most important issue in education, however this was something that she could do and that there was enough evidence to suggest it was the right to do it. A doctoral thesis from May 2023 from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim concluded that banning mobile phones led to better grades and less bullying, in particular bullying among girls. The Education Department had noted the study and were considering a trial in some schools where comparisons could be made to demonstrate the effectiveness of the ban. Nordtun rejected the idea of trials since these would automatically disadvantage the schools that allowed mobile phones. An example of what many people intuitively believe does actually have a sound scientific basis.

Reflekt has previously quoted Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th US President who stated when asked by a person on what they could contribute to their country, ‘Do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are. Roosevelt also added that there were really no excuses for not doing this. He had distain for people that pointed fingers and ‘whined’ about what they didn’t have and couldn’t do.

Taking a simple and seemingly obvious measure to make progress is often described as harvesting the low hanging fruits. Unfortunately, what may seem simple and obvious to some people is not as simple and obvious to others. Sometimes the system to put measures in place is complicated and the simple and obvious becomes lost in the jungle of the many other measures that have been identified. 

During an inspection of the process systems on a platform in the North Sea a hole was found in pipework to the flare. The cause was external corrosion. This pipework was on a system that was not normally in operation; however, it was not isolated from the main process. The work to repair the pipework was added to the many other outstanding activities. Since the system was not currently in operation the repair was not prioritized. Later, the production operators needed to put the system in service due to operational problems. When hydrocarbons were introduced, the resulting leak caused a shutdown. Repairing a hole in hydrocarbon pipework, alternatively isolating the pipework from any hydrocarbon,seemed a simple and obvious measure. Maybe not.

Reflekt AS