Sunday, July 30, 2017

eJSA (electronic Job Safety Analysis) - A new name for a screwdriver?

The title of another article in the May issue of Hydrocarbon Processing had me thinking a bit about who does what in our refineries or chemical plants. The title was "Prevent human-created hazards with improved job safety analysis" by Mike Sawyer and Pathum Jayawardena.
The nature of refineries and chemical plants are processing of flammable and toxic substance. Such substances pose a hazards if they are not handled properly. But the above mentioned article made me think: Who creates the hazards?
And Sawyer and Jayawardena er right, the hazards are created by humans! The humans who design our refineries and chemical plants. They go on to argue, that since the harzards are created by humans, then they can be controlled by humans, and they furthers state, that the needed engineering is sound, practicable and available (Did they get the sequence wrong?). Therefore, they conclude, the reason we continue to have incidents, is that incomplete and inappropriate implementation of the engineered preventive measures. So there is a problem with the engineering.
A very simple advice about what to do before you start a job.
To my surprise they go on to suggest that the solution to the problem is job safety analysis. Do they mean job safety analysis of the engineering job? No. They actually appear to think, that the solution to an engineering problem is job safety analysis.
JSA is all about stopping up, and thinking before you start a job. Commonly JSA is performed as dry run of the job to be done. The dry run is performed away from the hazards, e.g. in a meeting room, and the purpose is clearly to make the person, who is going to do the job aware of the hazards and how to avoid the negative consequences of the hazards. However, in these modern IT times the authors suggest to use an electronic JSA or eJSA. A plus for the eJSA should be, that participants don't have to all be in the same location.

Here Sawyer and Jayawerdena appear to increase both ressource usage and bureaucracy by stating, that a trained hazard analysis facilitator should guide all involved through the analysis. Wait a minute! What is a hazard analysis facilitator? It is a position, which I have not heard about before. I think it would be more appropriate to use a JSA facilitator. In the company I started my career they were called supervisors. Then the authors state that a member of management or a designated representative must sign the form prior to the work being performed. Do they really mean the eJSA form? I think the permit to work forms used in all refineries and chemical plants I have been in, is the form that gives permission to actually carry out the job, and that form is - depending on severity of the hazards - normally signed by the shift superintendent.

Layout of Permit to Work System.
Specific types of permits may change from site to  site
The next suggestions are a bit fuzzy to me. Sawyer and Jayawerdena suggest that "eJSA should provide a database of pre-determined prevention techniqies, and goes on to discuss details of the eJSA form - or is it a database?

Conclusion: What Sawyer and Jayawerdena are discussing in their article in the May issue of Hydrocarbon Processing is normally called a Permit to Work (PW) system. And if a job requires personnel to perform highly hazardous jobs, then the PW form include a JSA.

PS: Maybe it is not a good idea to have school teachers write articles in Hydrocarbon Processing. At least that is my opinion.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

How can you improve human performance? Or should you try something else?


In the May issue of Hydrocarbon Processing the article "Human reliability - a disruptive innovation" by Barry Snider set focus on the humans in our refineries and chemical plants with the point of view, that basically we pay to much attention to the reliability (performance) physical objects and too little to the reliability (performance) of humans We extensively measure the former at a huge cost, but spends little understanding, measuring, monitoring and improving the reliability (performance) of humans. Mr. Snider goes on to state, that this requires knowledge of the sciences of organization and behavioral psychology. Somehow I think the author don't clearly understand the difference between failures and failure mechanisms.

Mr Snider states "Just as chemical, mechanical, electrical and thermal stresses produce failure mechanisms in equipment, then psychological, emotional, physical and social stresses produce failure mechanisms in human behavior", and goes on to list contributing factors like miscommunication, complacency, distraction, pressure, resource allocation, lack of knowledge, lack of awareness, stress, fatigue, lack of assertiveness, lack of teamwork and normalization of deviance. These factors are all person related factors.  Unfortunately the source of information is aviation. In the process industry factors,which influence human behavior are called Performance Influencing Factors (PIF). PIF's include job factors, person factors and organisational factors.

Mr. Snider goes on to cite well known models of human behavior, such as Jens Rasmussen's stepladder model, which actually describe human action-decision in different tasks ranging from skill-based over rule-based to knowledge based. Unfortunately his then focus on the THERP model. THERP stands for the human error rate prediction, and this is a linear task model which is mainly suited for skill-based task analysis. Many tasks performed by humans in refineries and chemical plants fall int he categories rule-based and knowledge-based. The accident model shown above is from the HSE in the UK.

Many of the operator improvement activities I am aware of in refineries and chemical plant appear to focus on the improvement of individual skills and behavior. I wonder if by chancing from focusing on individuals to focus on improving teams the hydrocarbon industry could make significant gains in process safety, environmental protection and human health? A team could be as small as a shift team or as large as a process operating team, e.g. the team operating a polyethylene plant or a team operating a number of gas crackers. Take a look at the following information about high performing teams at Google, and please let me know what you think.

Google is one of the companies, which have focused on human performance, and especially team performance. They studied 180 teams, and on Google's Re:Work website Julia Rozovsky outline the five key characteristics of enhanced teams:
  1. Dependability: We count on each other to do high quality work on time.
  2. Structure and clarity: Goals, roles, and execution plans on our team are clear.
  3. Meaning: We are working on something that is personally important for each of us.
  4. Impact: We fundamentally believe that the work we're doing matters.
  5. Psychological safety: We take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed.
Michael Schneider at Inc. expands on the fifth characteristic. He states, that teams with psychological safe environments ahd employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and who were ultimately more successful,
I wonder if we - and especially safety professionals - have focused too much on the differences between  teams in a chemical plant or refinery, e.g. a team operating team for a gas cracker or a polyethylene plant, and the teams working at Google. However, I cannot think why the five characteristics listed above should not also apply to teams in process plants. Can you?
I keep coming back to on of Michael Schneider's remarks about psychological safety:
"But imagine a different setting. A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgement-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their gards. That's psychological safety."
When I think back on my work-life, then I definitely see periods with a psychological safe environment, and periods with a psychological unsafe environment. And in retrospect it appears as if I performed better in the former environment.