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Barriers: Conscious blocking

A potential for major accidents with big consequences for people, the environment and material assets is provided by the petroleum industry. So safety-critical barriers must be built in a unifi ed and consistent way to reduce the risk as much as possible.

“The industry, the authorities and the research and development community must constantly be reminded of the need to focus on preventing disasters,” says Torleif Husebø, discipline manager for process integrity at the PSA.

The agency’s supervisory activities, and not least its investigation of incidents, often reveal a lack of risk understanding and of barrier breaches as key causes.

“Such criticism affects both management and shop floor, and often relates to inadequate appreciation of the overall picture and its complexity plus a lack of commitment,” says Mr Husebø.

“Barrier control and good risk awareness are also very important when modification work is being pursued while production continues.”

The barrier concept covers technical, operational and organisational measures intended individually or collectively to prevent or halt a specific undesirable chain of events.

They can reduce both the probability of an incident or its impact. Technical and operational safety is one of the PSA’s top five priorities for 2009, Mr Husebø notes.

“This signals that the industry must continue to develop systems for and understanding of barrier management. At the same time, we’ll be giving weight to developing our own expertise in this area.”

By Ole-Johan Faret