links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From IAEA Headquarters, The UN enclave in Vienna, Austria, February 23, 2016, a dramatized look at what are the true reasons behind disasters in energy technologies – nuclear energy plants, oil drilling platforms, and methane production.

The IAEA Conference of 22-26 February 2016 was titled: “International Conference on Human and Organizational Aspects of Assuring Nuclear Safety – Exploring 30 Years of Safety Culture.”

I was visiting the VIC (Vienna International Center) – the UN enclave – for a completely different reason – and havig had some free time I snooped around what was going on in the M Conference building thsat was occupied by a large IAEE meeting and I saw on a desk in the hallway upon three cards announcing SAFETY WORKSHOPS. One titled FUKUSHIMA which was clearly very appropriate to the subject matter of the conference and thus did not arise my interest – but it was very different with te other two cards. one was titled NIMROD and the other DEEPWATER.

NIMROD is about an in flight refueling accident that happened September 2, 2006 in the sky over Afghanistan, and DEEPWATER is about the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig operated by Transocean that on April 20, 2010, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Mississippi River Delta, United States, referred to as the BP Oil Spill.

Now this conference started to talk to me. In one of the papers I picked up I read: “WHAT IS SAFETY CULTURE?” and the explanation that followed – “In some circumstances when a severe event happens, analysis has indicated that the safety margins had been eroding stedily for years. This can result from people gradually accepting declining conditions in safe work practices, and ignoring the risks brought on by this decline that may have unnoticeably drifted towards prioritizing other concerns over safety. Risks might have been played down because ‘nothing has happened’ which can eventually lead to a severe event occurring.”

Seeing my interest, a gentleman at the desk started to talk to me. It turned out he was Tim Bannerman, the Director of the London based “akt – Learning & Development Specialists” company that dramatizes/ enacts events. “akt” has delivered conferences, training and workshops throughout the world. See www.aktproductions.co.uk/

On SAFETY they say: “We operate in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, construction, nuclear, road, rail, airports, distilleries, facilities management, shipping and local government. We use a range of behaviour-based and research-based techniques, with a focus on understanding the psychology of at risk behaviours. All our plays and workshops focus on behaviour and consider the impact of human factors on safety.”

To me it became immediately clear that in its self-defence the nuclear energy industry will try to show that great risks are also part of the fossil fuel industries – so here we have also a demonstration of extreme events that are not connected to nuclear reactors. I said to Mr. Bannerman that I am no friend of either the oil industry nor the nuclear power industry, and he asked me – why do you not come to our presentation late in the day – and I am glad I did.

The event I attended was about the DEEPWATER case. The dramatization made it clear that Transocean, the company responsible in the operation of the BP operation in te Gulf of Mexico was involved just four months earlier in a near miss on a rig operated by them in the North Sea, and seemingly nothing was learned by them from that case leading to what the US authorities described later as a reckless disregard for safety.

The IAEA event can best be described as a safety workshop and in the room were many psychologists and behavioral scientists. The dramatization was there to show the human elements this in time decreasing safety vigilance and there was no way not to see that this is a company culture driven evolution. Eventually – if an accident can happen – it eventually will happen. The fact it did not happen yet just increases its chances to happen eventually because of a company driven evolving lack of vigilance. Sure – this does not include fail-safe evoluations like the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is a totally different issue that weighs on the oil industry. Sure, the IAEA that employs an engineering trained psychologist, Dr. Helen Rycraft, is making aware reactor operators of this danger in laxness of safety vigilance.
That is clearly one of the main responsibilities of this international organization, and pointing out that this industry is not the only devil in energy is quite appropriate. When I was asked as part of the Q&A segment of this workshop what I learned from the dramatization – I did not hesitate saying that te way out is to leave both industries – oil and nuclear – and look instead for safer technologies – the likes of soar a nd wind. Also, I mentioned my observation of what happens in the check-out lines at the Vienna Hoffer discounter super-markets. There the company pushes the checkout girls to work fast by actually monitoring the number of openings of the cash-registers – and surely – the check-out people make mistakes.
I have to read the slip as I find many times wrong charges. Clearly – also in the Fukushima and Deepwater cases – when analyzed the true blame is with the management that is not present on location.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article

###