OTC: Engineers consider human factors in offshore designs

Offshore engineers increasingly are taking human factors into account when designing oil and gas equipment, said speakers participating in a May 5 Offshore Technology Conference technical session entitled “Human Factors in Engineers.” The panelists wrote OTC papers on the topic.

Julie Pray of ABS Consulting Inc. described how Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is a specialized engineering discipline that integrates human behavioral and physical capabilities with traditional engineering disciplines.

Pray wrote a paper entitled “Implementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design” along with Kevin McSweeney of ABS and Christopher Parker of Atkins.

They said the oil and gas industry’s high-risk nature makes it critical to consider HFE as part of a total system design to ensure safety, operating efficiency, and to help keep costs down.

HFE professionals, working with operating managers, should be part of a project team during the conceptual design phase and should participate in project meetings on personnel safety and productivity, the paper said.

“Over the last few decades, there has been a gradual shift in the US maritime community toward HFE,” the paper said, noting that the shift started with the US Navy. Since then, the US Coast Guard has established a technical authority for HFE.

Another paper, “Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems,” examined best practices for reporting near misses. These practices were identified by Lamar University (LU) researchers who reviewed 44,000 actual close call reports from 27 sources. Those reports spanned several years.

The paper written by B. Craig, R. Papillon, J. Curry, and W. Zhu said close calls are opportunities to identify and correct underlying hazards and potentially reduce the likelihood of an incident.

“It is reasonable to analyze these ‘incidents that almost happened,’ after all, only a small change in circumstances could possibly convert a close call into an incident,” the paper said. Incidents can result in human injury, environmental damage, or negative business consequences.

The paper examined close calls for which there was no reportable injury or significant property damage.

“Industry partners operate a variety of ship types including tankers, lightering vessels, bulk cargo vessels, container vessels, tugs, and offshore service vessels,” the researchers said, adding they collected close call records from these sources.

The Mariner Personal Safety (MPS) Project is an ongoing collaboration between ABS, LU, and maritime industry partners. The project’s goal is to gather a worldwide database of maritime incident, injury, and close call reports to identify trends and share lessons learned.

Gautam Chaudhury and Alan Whooley of Wood Group Kenny wrote a paper entitled “Art, Science, and Engineering of Managing Offshore Field Development Economics and Risks.” They said collaboration is needed between subsurface, drilling and completion, and production managers to succeed on small-to-medium size offshore fields.

Chaudhury and Whooley compared the various parts of oil and gas development planning to conducting a concert with multiple instruments that all need to blend into a melody.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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