Human Factors in HSE Performance

Misra, Achal (Abu Dhabi Co. Onshore Oil Opn.)


‘Safety First,' the motto of petroleum industry has been in focus since early 20th century evolving HSE considerably and as of today, we have industry best HSE practices nevertheless accidents still happen. A welder lost his life after he entered inside a 30?? pipe to inspect a weld joint. This is despite safety alert being widely circulated two weeks prior for a similar accident happened elsewhere. Are accidents inevitable or preventable?

‘Preventable,' would be the intuit answer but when prodded deeply with a psychological perspective the scenario apparently leaves an ounce of doubt, ‘was it inevitable?' To demystify the fatalistic thinking, a psychoanalyst's perspective is required to unveil the latent human factors that lead to unsafe acts. Even the safety regulations cannot rein human decision making processes which are affected by cognitive biases such as intuition, overconfidence, illusion of control, confirmation, complacence and hindsight. Under such constraints, it is no surprise that incidents reoccur whereas companies search for compliance gaps in HSE implementation.

Taking into account the case study of fatal welder accident, this papers explores human error and its influence on performance level, unveils human brain functioning, describe briefly five cognitive biases that influences unsafe acts, conjure the fatal welder accident with plausible biases, and concludes calling for more efforts to increase the awareness of cognitive biases and develop a safety culture helping to prevent incidents and improve HSE performances.

Key words: HSE, human error, performance, cognitive biases, metacognition, safety culture.