A Digital Approach to Reducing Human Error

No matter what industry or activity, when a human is performing a task, there is a possibility that they could make an error. Numerous studies show that the contribution of poor procedures toward human error leading to an incident ranges between 65 and 90%. Process safety management legislation such as Seveso III and OSHA 1910.119 require the use of procedures when executing safety-critical tasks; therefore, regulators have recognized the importance of having a set of good-quality procedures as part of the management of human factors.

As companies begin to embrace the concepts of digitalization and big data, the main challenge remains: How do we make a step change in reducing human error in heavily paper-based operating and maintenance procedures?

This paper will provide examples of how poor procedures have led to human errors causing incidents, introduce the background to human factors with respect to procedures, and explain some of human-error categories to which people are susceptible. The paper will then explain the road map approach that the UK’s Health and Safety Executive has adopted as part of its Human Factors Delivery Guide. The paper then shows how the energy industry’s approach of returning these procedures back into a paper format fails to take advantage of available digital technologies.

This paper shows that incidents continue to occur in all industries because of human error in procedures and shows how the drive from the regulator to perform critical tasks analysis can lead to procedures actually becoming less usable if these reviews are not performed correctly. The paper then will show how taking a digital approach to meeting these new regulatory requirements provides the opportunity to digitize existing operating and maintenance procedures, enabling a structured, efficient, and auditable approach to theses assessments. The paper will also show how the adoption of the available digital technologies provide new performance-influencing techniques that are not available in paper-based systems.

The paper will also show how emerging technologies such as augmented reality can enable the transition to these new technologies and how big data can provide additional continuous improvements in procedures, ensure appropriate competencies are in place for field workers performing tasks, and introduce significant efficiencies to lower operation costs.

Human error continues to contribute significantly to incidents in the energy and other industries. To address this, regulators, such as the UK Health and Safety Executive, are placing new requirements on operating companies to ensure the risks associated with errors in procedures are managed more effectively. The opportunity to make a step change in reducing human error, while also providing an efficient work flow, will lead to safer working environments, reduce potential impacts on the environment, and provide efficiencies for operation and maintenance teams, which will lead to savings in operational expenditure.

Find paper SPE 195753 on the HSE Technical Discipline Page free for a limited time.

Find paper SPE 195753 on OnePetro.

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