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Human Factors (HF) in drilling and well operations

Good interaction between individuals, technology and organization in the drilling and well area is important when it comes to avoiding personal injuries in the drilling area and preventing major accidents. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) assigns high priority to this area, in part through audits of operators and shipowners emphasizing various HF factors.


Human Factors are methods and knowledge that can be used to evaluate and improve the interaction between individuals, technology and organization. The objective is to create a work situation that provides the maximum contribution towards efficient and safe operations, while also taking into account the possibilities, limitations and needs of human beings.

Human Factors - challenges
The PSA started a comprehensive project on Human Factors in drilling and well operations in 2005. One of the results of this cooperative effort with Det Norske Veritas AS (DNV) was development of a report entitled "Human Factors in drilling and well operations - challenges, projects and activities." (see link box)

In this report, we summarized feedback from the industry and included our own experiences from investigations and audits aimed at drilling operations.

The report revealed a number of challenges linked to the Human Factors area. From the management perspective, many managers felt that they did not have enough time to be out in the field and follow up employees in their work. We also see challenges linked to the managers' opportunity to communicate the risk potential associated with the work tasks in order to ensure a good understanding of risk.

As regards planning and cooperation, one of the things that emerged was that the introduction of integrated operations has resulted in a greater degree of cooperation between land and offshore, with the challenges this entails for roles and responsibilities, as well as achieving good teamwork and communication.

When more work is planned on land, it is important to ensure concrete planning offshore, and that potential changes entail new evaluations and plans for implementation.

Human-machine interface
The report also points to the fact that a complex human-machine interface means greater challenges, both in the driller's cabin and on the drill floor. A need has emerged for more standardized principles as regards HF factors, both in relation to equipment on the drill floor and in the driller's cabin.

The need for training must be viewed in context with design development. While drillers previously had a more physical workplace, the tasks have now changed so that the driller must deal with equipment that is extremely advanced and solutions based on computer screens.

Drillers face a significant challenge in both understanding, operating and maintaining an overview over all of the data that comes in - while at the same time maintaining control and overview over the physical activities taking place on the drill floor.

We are also concerned about the use of drilling systems that entail excessively large volumes of information and deficient logic.

In connection with modification projects that entail installation of new equipment, it is important to have a clear understanding of the overall picture, and to look at all of the equipment together as one system. It is not sufficient to merely consider the benefit of the new equipment by itself.

We see that analyses are often performed with regard to the risk associated with new equipment that is introduced, while there seems to be a lack of overall risk analyses that look at the entire operation in context.

Based on our experience, we will assign priority to audits of various operators and shipowners with emphasis on a number of HF factors, including evaluation of the drillers' workloads and how the drilling work is organized. We will also follow up physical aspects of the work, particularly as regards modifications in the drilling area.

We also cooperate with the authorities in other countries and participate in special seminars both in Norway and abroad to share experience in the field of Human Factors.

Contacts in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:

  • Press/media: Inger Anda, press spokesperson
    E-mail: inger.anda@ptil.no
    Tel.: +47 970 54 064
  • Project manager for the HF project:
    Hilde Heber, Principal engineer
    E-mail: hilde.heber@ptil.no
    Tel.: +47 51 87 63 16