Understanding Human Behaviour

Total’s commitment to better energy means ensuring the safety of our employees and facilities, everywhere we operate, every day. Understanding the role of human factors in hazard prevention and designing suitable systems, procedures and training, is a central tenet of Total’s safety philosophy.

In summer 2013, Total's UK Exploration and Production subsidiary, began a fundamental review of how human dynamics influence our approach to managing major accident hazards and safety critical task analysis (SCTA).

According to research by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), up to 80% of accidents may be attributed, at least in part, to the actions or omissions of people – in other words, human factors.

  • Human Factor

    Demonstrating safe behaviours at the Shetland Gas Plant

  • Laggan people

    Demonstrating safe behaviours at the Shetland Gas Plant

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  • Human Factor
  • Laggan people

Focus on training

At the heart of this work has been extensive training and the involvement of operators and technicians in reviewing a site’s approach to how safety critical procedures are prioritised and documented in the company management system.

Before work commenced, it was essential all senior level operators, including managers, Supervisors and Offshore Installation Managers, were made aware of the pivotal role of human dynamics and organisational factors in process safety.

Working closely with John Wilkinson, a leading human factors consultant with the Keil Centre and the driving force behind the creation of Human and Organisational Factors (HOF) for the UK Health and Safety Executive from 1999-2011, our Exploration and Production subsidiary began developing a new two-day tailored course based on UK legislation. Founded on existing Group-wide human factors course already delivered across Total, the site-specific nature of the new course represented a watershed moment for Total E&P UK.

Engagement with workers led to the course being built around the practical realities of day-to-day operations. Course content could even be tailored to reflect delegate’s responsibilities, with essential core content supplemented by role-specific information for drillers, operators, maintenance, projects, supply chain teams and those in HR.

Each highly interactive two-day course is attended by between 10-14 people. In order to prepare delegates, pre-reading based on Energy Institute literature, is provided to kick start thoughts on how human factors influence a site’s safety culture and performance.

Day one takes a detailed look at what we mean by human factors; how human factors can play a role in incidents and the tools used to assess the role of human factors during any incident investigation. Day two of the course then focuses on site-specific safety critical task analysis and organisational factors such as site supervision and permit to work systems. It also examines how new projects should be designed to take into account people – empowering Operations to ask informed questions of project teams, helping to ensure that human factor considerations are built into plant modifications and upgrades from day one.

Impact on process safety

By January 2016, 145 Total staff in the UK had completed the training, resulting not only in a far higher level of process safety awareness, but also an engaged workforce empowered to take corrective actions based on a fit-for-purpose, standardised way of working.

The lessons from the training have already had a profound impact on process safety at St Fergus. Lessons learned during the training have been applied to a screening process of all High risk safety critical procedures at the plant. More than 180 tasks were prioritized according to their potential impact on process safety: high, medium and low.  

With the support of a dedicated Site Human Factors Coordinator, each operational shift was given a list of high priority safety critical procedures to analyse. Each documented procedure was benchmarked against actual best practice, stripping out any unnecessary or outdated information in order to provide operators with the essential information they require to complete a procedure safely and efficiently.

By giving employees ownership of the process, supported by practical human error analysis, numerous process safety improvements have been implemented and 80 redundant processes have been removed from the Terminal’s management system.

Since mid 2014, all high risk major accident procedures have been analysed, updated and approved and St Fergus is now focusing on applying the lessons learnt to all medium risk safety critical tasks.

Following the successful pilot at St Fergus, this approach to workforce engagement has been captured in Total's UK Exploration and Production Human and Organisational Factors (HOF) Strategy. The strategy, developed to enable a consistent approach across all our operational sites, is currently being rolled out across all our operational sites – both onshore and offshore.   

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