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Topic 25: The constant struggle between HSE legislation and human stupidity

WilliamBradford's picture

I feel that, even though health and safety regulations are
continually becoming more and more advanced, and the legislation develops after
most major incidents, a major factor aiding incidents occurring is the involvement
of humans. I understand that this sounds blatantly obvious (I mean, If humans
weren’t involved, there wouldn’t be any equipment etc. to cause a risk), but I’m
talking more about the risk due to the lack of common sense, or, more bluntly,
human stupidity. Whilst working for an valve maintenance firm,  I once saw a >3m long actuator suspended
from a crane around 2m off the ground with a valve technician standing on top
of it, adjusting part of the lifting mechanism it was suspended from.
Naturally, the consequences involved with that event are very mild, however, in
my experience, lack of common sense is fairly common, and, in higher risk
situations, this could lead to dire consequences. What do you all think?

William Bradford

MSc. Renewable Energy


Maria Christou's picture

I absolutely agree with William above, that human’s recklessness
has led to a lot of disasters despite the fact that health and safety measures
have been developed in order to avoid these disasters.

For example, in case of the Macondo
accident, the workers ignored the safety regulations regarding the integrity of
the cement and carried on with their work. As a result, the pressure in the
wellbore increased and it caused two explosions.

Another example is the Bhopal disaster in 1984, where workers again ignored important parameters. They ignored the fact that gauges measuring temperature and pressure in the various parts of the unit were unreliable, the refrigeration unit for keeping MIC at low temperatures was inactivated and so many other things which eventually led to the leak of toxic gases.


To sum up, although the legislation concerning the safety is being constantly upgraded, human’s stupidity will always cause problems.







Mark Nicol's picture

I think things have improved a lot since then, as in large companies especially, there is an ever present HSE culture. When I started my career as a welder many years ago, the whole attitude to HSE was a lot different.

I’ll give you an example, and you’ll probably think I’m stupid as well, but this is the way it was and I know from experience that things have changed a lot since.

I was working in a shipyard in Sweden and we have had to go to the outside of the vessel to weld one of the horizontal seams, of the section we were joining. The vessel was obviously in dry dock and the height was quite substantial. Put it this way if you fell you would have been killed outright.

There was no proper scaffolding with scaff tags to let you know that it had been assembled correctly. What we had was short pieces of scaffolding tube welded onto the side of the vessel and scaffolding boards overlapping each other. When you walked on one side of the board the other end would spring up. I kid you not, that was our work platform.

Looking back I think yeah, I was stupid, but that was the culture, you didn’t question it. I now work in an office and see how the HSE culture is installed in the graduates as soon as they start. This is how you change people’s perspectives to HSE, by learning them at an early age. If you do this it’s normal to them, they don’t know any different.


Andrew Allan's picture

Human Factors is becoming an more and more important element in the oil and gas industries goal to achieve zero accidents or incidents.  In the early years of offshore oil and gas the focus was on improving the design of equipment to improve safety and reliability and hence reduce the likelihood and/or consequences should a process deviate from it's intended operating function and parameters.

Following this into the 80s and 90s, the focus moved to reducing occupational risks due to the mounting statistics showing the dominating role of "slips, trips and falls" type accidents contributing to fatalities and major injuries.  This again further reduced the number of accidents and fatalities in the industry.

Now, the focus is moving onto Human Factors which encompasses a number of fields including psychology and engineering design and focusses on reducing human error and positively influencing the behaviours of people so as to minimse the risk of accidents.  In developing the science of this field it is hoped that the industry can initiate another step change in reducing accidents and incidents, moving ever closer to the goal of zero harm to people.

I will touch on some elements of this field in my following posts.

Andrew Allan's picture

One important element in the field of Human Factors is that of the ergonomic design of equipment and facilities as a whole so as to minimise the likelihood of a human making an error which could lead to negative consequences.

In designing a piece of equipment the engineer must consider the human tasks which are to be performed when using the piece of equipment, whether it be operating a valve, reading a pressure guage or starting a machine.  The designer must consider the optimum location for each piece of equipment so that it can be easily accessed, that no unecessary effort is required by the operator, and that the likelihood of the operator either performing an action incorrectly, or missing a step in the process altogether is minimised.

Many offshore operators are currently undertaking work to review the ergonomic design of their platforms, applying the industry best practise in ergonomic design to ensure an efficent and operable plant for the personnel performing the work.

Mark Nicol's picture

I’m not sure when this happened William, but I find it quite hard to believe in this day and age that this was allowed to happen.

I can only assume that this was a small company, as if it was a large company they would have procedures in place to prevent something like this happening.

I’m not trying to say that all small companies ignore health and safety, but from past experience, there does seem to be less onus on HSE, probably because they don’t have HSE departments and just have a safety person that is responsible for overseeing the health and safety at the company.

Having said that, the first rule of safety is that you are responsible for your own safety i.e. you are your own safety officer. So the incident that you refer to, was as you put it, down to stupidity.There should have been regulations in place (Ref 1) to ensure the dangers of working at height were reduced to as low as reasonably practical (ALARP).

The first thing we should do when managing working at height, is to determine if it is necessary. If unavoidable, manage the risk by planning properly i.e. is there suitable equipment for the task? Is it certified? Is there lifting involved, if there is, has a lift plan been produced? 

By risk assessing and identifying the risk potential we can reduce risks to as low as resonably practical.


WilliamBradford's picture

Perhaps surprisingly, this was actually just under 3 months ago in a fairly large multinational company which, I can tell you, is certainly not lax in the HSE department. However, as is the main point of this thread (and as Trevor points out further down), there will always be someone who will not take notice. I think the main problem with the company I mention is the sheer number of young apprentices they hire who, in my experience, don’t seem to give much of a damn about anything. Perhaps they’re just ignorant of the risks to themselves and others, which is highly unlikely due to the sheer amount of lift plans, toolbox talks and risk assessments we all have to go through on a regular basis. This, I suppose, brings us to an interesting topic for another blog: The dangers associated with young or inexperienced people in the workplace.

Mark Nicol's picture

William it’s quite alarming to read that all the procedures are in
place and there are still individuals who pay no respect to them. It got me
thinking about when I served me time and how things have changed to now.

I served my time in a busy fabrication shop and there were many
heavy lifts on a daily basis using overhead cranes. A lot of these lifts were
above head height. At that time there were no lift plans in place and there wasn’t
a training course on how to operate the crane.

At that time your lift plan and your training course on how to use
the crane was simply done be effective communication and on the job training
from your superiors.

Thinking back to when I was an apprentice at 16 years old, my
perspective on life was a lot different to what it is now.

I think managing apprentices needs to come from the shop floor as
well as all the procedures that are in place. I don’t only mean that it is the responsibility
of the shop foremen, it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure the
workplace is safe.

For example, and I know this doesn’t happen very often, but if you
are an apprentice and you see another apprentice committing an unsafe act, what
should you do?

Of course you should report it. If you do, you have potentially
saved an accident from happening, resulting in a safer workplace and someone
from injury. Not only that, but if everybody knows that you reported the
potential incident, it makes people think.

What you have done is not only prevent a potential incident; you
have changed the safety culture of your workplace.

How many apprentices would report another apprentice for committing
an unsafe act? I would hazard a guess not many.

WilliamBradford's picture

Yeah, I totally agree with you there, not many people would step out and stop many unsafe acts, and report them, for the fear that they're forever thought of as a 'grass'.

However, the company has quite a few procedures that allow for the 'tipping off', as it were, of unsafe acts, where the names of those involved are not disclosed (unless the situation requires some action). They also have a monthly cash prize incentive for these reports.

And, as you say, as they develop through the years, their perspectives will (hopefully) change, and they'll have a healthy respect for the rules which are there to protect them.

Mark Haley's picture

Human Error

In the picture above you can see three workers standing on the end of a plank supporting a fourth worker carrying out repairs on the side of a ship. (This reminded me of what William Bradford was talking about).

Is this stupidity or is it OK??

As with all human activity you need to ask a number of questions first:
- Do the workers know this is dangerous?
- Is this accepted practice within this organisation?
- Have management told them to do it this way?
- Are they being lazy and cutting corners or is there no other way of doing it?
- Is there a system within the organisation to report dangerous practices?
- Is there even an effective legal framework within this country (the one in the photo) to challenge unsafe practices?

These are just some of the questions that would need to be posed when assessing this and the list could go on. However, without first knowing ‘ALL' the facts it is very difficult to judge. The opening statement says ‘The constant struggle between HSE legislation and human stupidity'. In the above picture would you class this as stupidty?

If this was taken in the UK then I would say a resounding ‘YES', as we have an effective H&S and legal framework where this kind of practice is, and should always be challenged. Which is why I am quite surprised at the practices William was talking about, and I am equally surprised that the HSE has not been in there and shut down operations.

In the case William was describing, the workers themselves might not be the stupid ones as they may be young or inexperienced (as mentioned in other comments), or fearful of repercussions if they report an incident. However, experience has taught me that safety culture is a top down process with open and honest reporting of incidents from the bottom. Therefore, the management are definitely culpable and should be held to account.

Mark Haley

WilliamBradford's picture

Haha, that is pretty stupid trick, but at least they had the sense to have a 3 person counterbalance. So, I suppose, not all hope is lost.

VICTOR ETIM's picture

Tnis is quite a perilous subject to
handle since majority of the companies from time to time are found liable for
these shortcomings among its staff and workplace safety act. These flaws can be
regulated or eliminated by the following measures;

Managerial Support: Unless a visible and realistic commitment to
institutionalize workplace safety practices is been demonstrated by the top
management board and line managers, the non-profit stupidity will remain. This includes
imposing stringent penalties for perpetrators.

Level of Understanding/Appreciation: Safety is very crucial to
personnel and work environment so a strong awareness and appreciation of a
safety work-culture so be incorporated in all levels of operations with
relevant training and monitoring.

Communication: Poor or lack of clarity in communication is a great
barrier to safety related to human factors which have led to many injuries and
accidents at work places, thus, a clearly and consistently communication plan
should be employed in safety related operations including the emergency
response plan.

Finally, bridging performance
culture and financial incentives with safety goals and objectives, commitment by
top management for safe best practices prostrate the company’s concern for the welfare
and value of the employees.


51126236. OGE.


Andrew Allan's picture

Another area of Human Factors is focussed on the phycological load put onto personnel performing a task, as information overload can lead to stress, mistakes and ultimately accidents.  One specific area of focus in the oil and gas and petrochemical industries is the interface between human and machine.  Offshore control room operators are responsible for monitoring the hundreds of items of equipment, and thousands of instruments, guages and alarms involved in the effective operation of a platform.  They must be highly skilled in evaluating developing scenarios and deciding on the best course of action to ensure safe and productive operation. 

Human Machine Interface design plays a vital role in controlling the amount, type and content of the information relayed to the operator.  As offshore platforms have aged, equipment is decommisioned or becomes faulty and can lead to spurious alarms which place an unnecessary load on the control room operators.

Careful consideration from the designers as to the requirements for alarms and control outputs, and also a focus on the most effective way to display that information to operators ensures the psychological load on operators is minimised.  This allows them to make calm and calculated decisions in the event of a process upset, minimising the likelihood of error thus reducing the likelihood of accidents or incidents.

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

Good blog William and great opinions I read. As I see it stupidity will always exist (UNFORTUNATELY!) Just take a look at some of the road users who think they are Jenson Button. Enough said. What I would like to point out is that the O&G sector appears to be leading the way in Health and Safety culture development. There is also more focus on behaviour safety but please be mindful that there are company's even in the UK and also in the O & G supply chain that still regard the H&S of their workers and others as secondary and remained focused on profit only. This is an old fasioned view but I'm affraid it still exists as I have experienced this at first hand. Logs storey, somtime I will tell you the tale.

Soseleye F. Ideriah's picture

Yes, human negligence and “stupidity” as mentioned in this
post may lead to extremely disastrous events, resulting in loss of property, injury
and/or loss of life. Majority of the time, this is because employees do not
understand the consequences of oversights, lapses and incompliance. Poor adherence
to safety regulations increases exposure to risks and probability of failure
events. In my opinion, it is essential that all employees feel a sense of
responsibility for tasks they carry out. Penalties should ALWAYS be tied to the
initiation of failure events from negligence (deliberate or not). Organisations
should ensure all employees understand the liabilities involved with each task,
as this will result in improved concentration levels. This approach goes a long
way in eliminating human error.

Mohamed H. Metwally's picture

Mark...The example you talked about (of welding on an unsafe scaffold) is more about over-confidence than stupidity. I think that over-confidence is the most dangerous human factor causing accidents in industry as well as in our daily life.

Many skilled and experienced workers are making fatal mistakes because of lack of attention which is usually associated with the routine work.

In my opinion, the golden rule is "focus..focus..focus", no matter how easy the work you do but most importantly, how severe the accident would be if you don't do the proper way. 

In fact, this is an area of concern, for which organizations have to raise the level of awareness of worker and educate them how to make the daily work more interesting so that they pay attention to what they're doing! 

WilliamBradford's picture

I completely agree with you here, over-confidence really can be dangerous.

Abdulazeez Bello's picture

First and foremost, I will like to correct your use of word “stupidity”.
The term is offensive would rather prefer “Recklessness” as this is an
academic discussion.
  HSE Legislations are drafted by humans too. So
it can be subjective. They are meant to guide the way and manner activities are
done and to punish defaulters. Proper enforcement of laid down rules goes a
long way in reducing the probability of failure though human reliability cannot
be guaranteed. It is the duty of every company to always educate the workers
about the challenges of unsafe acts and practices and the dangers inherent in
them before any job is commenced. There should constantly update the risk
analysis of every Job to be undertaken and review those incidents that went
wrong with the aim of making amends for future job schedule. Another way of
minimizing human recklessness is to routinely check the state of mind of every employee
by a competent medical practitioner as pressure and fatigue from job and outside job activities could undermine one's performance. This will go a long way in  reducing the amount of near miss
and fatalities recorded during a production year. As humans, mistakes are bound
to happen but with constant reminder they can be reduced or avoided.

WilliamBradford's picture

Hi, I'd like to defend my use of the word 'stupidity'. Firstly, I'll use the clichéd phrase "Offence is taken, not given". Also the two words 'stupidity' and 'recklessness' have very different meanings, 'recklessness' suggests carelessness and rash behaviour, however, the point I was trying to get across is not that people forget about the legislations, it's that some people will intentionally violate the rules in a calculated manner, just so they can do the job 'their way', and other such bad reasons. Also, I don't believe that 'stupidity' is a word that is inappropriate for use in an academic discussion.

 Hopefully, I haven't came across as having a go at you, that wasn't my intention.


Also, I completely agree that risk analyses should be constantly updated, it's an excellent way of reminding people of the dangers, and the rules in place to help keep accidents from happening.

Kareem Saheed Remi's picture

I would like to start with a saying that “only two things
are infinite in this world: the universe and human stupidity (By Albert Einstein).
You cannot imagine what people could do even when they know the gruesome consequences.
Legislations, policies, standards are written by humans as a result of lessons learnt
from previous accidents, as a friend of mine normally say “policies in oil and
gas industry are written with human blood”.

Some of the factors that could cause recklessness at work
could be:

Being over adventurous, I would like to see what
would happen if I do this.

In this view, total ignorance could be seen as
recklessness. Doing what you do not know and refusing to ask or check what
procedure says.

Complacency is another factor, taking things for
granted due to the fact that you have huge number of years of experience on the

 It all comes down to
commitment to personal safety. 

Kareem R. Saheed

WilliamBradford's picture

I like that quote, another good (and relevant) one would be: "Things are only fool proof until someone makes a better fool"

Also, I like your point about being over adventurous. However, there is a delicate balance in there, completely restricting flexibility in jobs can make a dull job mind-numbing, causing the worker to lose interest and allow the slipping of attention. Also, depending upon the circumstances and workplace, being adventurous can lead to new avenues of thought and unexpected benefits, and, as such, a proper risk assessment should be carried out before any over adventurous activities are carried out. Which, I suppose brings us back to the original point of the wilful and knowing violation of the rules and regulations.

Joan.C.Isichei's picture

 “ To err is human. Error consequence is directly proportional to your situational awareness.”

I completely agree with Kareem concerning  the issue of complacency. It was one of the major issues continuously harped on whilst attending an HSE event during my internship with one of the Oil multinationals back home. This was a resulting consequence of a statistical review of all company related accidents or near-accidents for that year pointing to complacency as the chief culprit. Findings indicated that Employees kept underestimating the risks of tasks they performed routinely and failed to notice changes in their environment. Hence, the Company’s need for the organization of routine HSE programmes to continually improve basic levels of employee vigilance to guard against the loss of situational awareness.

Elvis.E.Osung's picture

Hi Williams, you seem to have a high tendency for using very strong words...please tone down...Accidents that occur as a result of human factors can be hinged on perception and Judgement. While education and training helps to give a lot of us a common ground in perception and judgement, that alone is not enough. The need for a standard gives birth to legislation. The balance between HSE legislation and human factor lies in supervision and control. The case you just mentioned can be analysed from two aspect of ignorance/recklessness and lack of supervisory control. In the domino sequence of accident occurrence, the absence of supervisory, Administrative and Engineering control is the first domino. If there are no supervisory controls in place, at risk behaviours like the one you mentioned will occur, incidence and accidents could happens as a result of that leading to injury, loss of life and company reputation.Elvis OsungMsc, Subsea Engineering


WilliamBradford's picture

Hi, I don't mean to come across as rude, but I'm really in the dark here, please point out what it is I've said to provoke such a reaction. I can't figure it out what I've said that can be classed as 'very strong words'.

I agree that education and training is not enough, but, only because of the 'human stupidity' and lack of common sense aspects. If everyone was safety conscious and followed the rules and regulations, education and training would be all that is needed, due to the fact that the legislation/rules would be included in said training. Also, supervisory control is all well and good in theory, but, as Ross points out further down, there is no possible way in which you can supervise everyone at all times, there will always be some point at which there is no supervision. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by te absence of administrative control being one of the first dominoes in the sequence. And, also, I believe that behaviours such as the one I mentioned will begin to occur, regardless of the state of supervision. However, the end result of the event will be determined by the safeguards and measures put in place to help prevent such events.

Elvis.E.Osung's picture

"For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail." --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack

the quote above depicts a scenery where sequences of events leads to a catastrophy. The domino sequence is used to highlight the impact of a single event on the other, consider a system where two valves are connected in series, the failure of one valve leads to the failure of the system so also in a domino sequence the failure of one domino will transfer to the others
To further buttress the domino sequence concept in safety, Arrange five dominos and label then as follows;
1, Control (Management, Administrative,supervisory,Engineering)
2, unsafe acts/unsafe conditions,
3, Accident/incident,
4, injury/fatality,
5, direct and indirect losses

The abscence of controls results to at risk behaviours(unsafe acts)..which you term stupidity..the oil and gas industry being a high capital and high risk industry has set up lots of control measures to manage hazards that cannot be eliminated (unsafe conditions). Supervisors are to ensure that safe working practices are adhered to strictly, hence the need for documents like permit to work e.t.c. this is to reduce or probably eliminate the contribution of human factors to accidents

Its difficult to have people act as they desire in a standards system (thats why its called and

WilliamBradford's picture

I probably should have made it clearer, It was the administrive control part I was confused about, not the domino effect. Sorry about that.

leighmoreton's picture

Apoligies I tried to post this earlier but it didn't seem to work. 

Elvis, I agree with William I have just read through this post and cannot seem to find any "strong words" which would cause offence.

In context to people refering to William's use of "stupidity" in the topic title as incorrect, I believe that his word choice is very accurate.  As the majority of accidents occuring in the work place, even small scale accidents can be analysed as someone blatantly ignoring rules and regulations clearly labeled out by the company.  The HSE regulations are there for a reason and because some people find the 'rules' a waste of time they ignore them and just do as they please. 

An example I have is when I worked in a supermarket the safety regulations, we were all trained in, claimed that we should not stack the goods trollies higher then our shoulder height.  Because some people felt that this meant more work for them they mearly ignored the rules and stacked their trollies as high as they wanted.  This not only risked their own health, but also the safety of those around them, as they could not see around the trollies so would often run into the corners of shelves damaging the stock, and also having near misses with other  staff members.  According to the 'supervisor' records these members of staff had been trained in the manual handling of the products and it was not their fault if the staff 'chose' to ignore the policies.

We cannot babysit people 24/7 in their jobs they were employed under the assumption that they would be able to handle to position responsibly.

Leigh Moreton
MSc Renewable Energy

Igwe Veronica Ifenyinwa's picture

I agree with you Bello on your view that ‘’recklessness’’
should be substituted for ‘’Stupidity’’ but put differently, I will suggest
that both the word ‘’Stupidity’’ and ‘’recklessness’’ be replaced by the phrase
‘’Sharp practices’’. This simply means the overt deviation from standards. It
is common that most workers are aware of the norms and ethics of Health safety
and environmental codes but only prefer to turn a blind eye to its dictates and
warnings, owning to sheer impatience, the quest to make more profits, conclude
task within record time at the expense of human lives, gross corruption, making
an unjustifiable over-use of available personnel and mere attachment of less
importance to health and safety standards

WilliamBradford's picture

Hi, I'll refer you to my response to Abdulazeez for my defence of the word 'stupidity'.

 Also, I'd like to agree with ElNSTEIN when he pointed out that using these words really is just sugar coating the situation and that your use of 'sharp practices' is really just a poor euphemism, which doesn't make much sense (in my opinion).

There's a limit to how much can be achieved by improving H&S training and awareness as certain people have the mindset "that will never happen to me" regardless if it has been drilled into them the possible dangers (a common example is with drivers in which EVERYONE knows the consequences and dangers involved) but due to this mentality they disregard any form of training they have been given.

I completely agree with Williams post, this disregard for H&S is down to human stupidity that can cause people to do rather outstanding acts of stupidity as he mentioned.

 “The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.”

- Einstein

P.S. We can try sugar coat and justify the peoples actions as being "reckless" or having "sharp practice" but the most correct term is definitely stupidity when one does dangerous acts knowing the risks but thinking that nothing like that could EVER happen to them.

RossWinter's picture

Humans have the tenancy to do stupid or reckless things; I believe the concept is not offensive unless it is being directly attributed to one individual person. I have to disagree with the comment Elvis made above which it’s the absence of supervision which attributes to accidents, all aspects of industry have supervision but this is not every second of a working day, there has to be a level of trust which occasionally can be misplaced. The legislation is there to try and mitigate as many of the health and safety issues involved in a company, however it doesn’t cover absolutely everything, there are areas where you would hope that common sense would prevail!

Ross Winter Msc Renewable Energy

Oh and because I just read Igwe's comment again,

I disagree with what you said because employee's don't particularly care for company profits/maximising outputs unless you are insinuating that the company heads are forcing their employee's to do these actions (which would results in them being sued fairly regularly).

Workers generally care only for getting by and doing the work required for them, I will admit that due to competitiveness amongst some people, some will try do things as quickly as possible for records to boast and improve their ego's however this is not the main reasons for disregarding health and safety procedures.

The most common reason if a combination of lazyness and stupidity.
They don't think anything would go wrong (as I already said) so they don't take the correct safety measurements because this generally adds to time and effort. They do not fully appreciate the risks because of this.

Another reason I'll point out is that when there is competitive people working in certain area's they use peer pressure to make others disregard H&S, saying that they ain't "real men" etc if they need to use things like goggles etc which also makes others ignore H&S due to the pressure and abuse from fellow workers over it. This is a BIG problem in manual labour jobs in particular.

personal experience from years working in agriculture/building/fishing ETC.

Henry Tan's picture

Please use the standard name format:  Firstname Lastname
Please upload your photo image.

Olamide s Ajala's picture

 I absolutely agree with Einsten rather than igwe, because as rightly said by Einsten , no employee cares about companys profit.Em ployees are only paid based on your assigned duty and task and  even most employee will even prefer to receive wages without doing anything.

From my vantage point , i feel that the major battle between Human stupidity and HSE is the inherent nature of human among other factors. There is a popular adage which says “common sense is not common”,  so we should not expect every human being to reason or make useof their senses in the same capacity.

Asides from HSE legislation, lets take an holistic view to things happening in our community /environment, there are some acts that you need not be given a legislation or rule to know that those things are detrimental or risky to an individual or environment.For example crossing a major highway under an over head foot bridge or receiving a call while crossing the highway.

The basic idea is that whether there is HSE legislation or not people because of their nature tends to do unimaginable things.
However, we should not neglect the fact that some people are actually sane enough in willing to do the right thing but they are not aware of the health implication or legislation guiding the task or whatever process they handling(eg office egronomics).

Therefore, no matter how publisced and documented HSE legislation is, it still needs to be continuously spread and promulgated through all works of life from the artisans to the skilled based people .

Monday Michael's picture

Having read most of the posts on this issue, I couldn’t help but add my thoughts to what has been said already. I do know that this is not supposed to serve as a lesson in semantics but the word ‘stupidity’ perhaps could have been re-phrased without losing the essence of the message; something like ‘lack of intelligence, lack of understanding, lack of reason reason, lack of wit or lack of sense’ would have been more apt [1]. Perhaps Dr Tan wanted to show how extreme some actions or inactions taken by humans have caused major industrial accidents.
Having said that, it is sad that most HSE legislations are enacted after an accident has occurred rather than the other way round. Even at that, one would expect that common sense, some level of intelligence, understanding and reason (un-stupid/non-stupid acts) would still guide the actions of workers in any given field of endeavour, for example in the Piper Alpha disaster during the shift change, the day shift engineer should have informed the night shift engineer of the condition of pump A and not just drop off the permit in the control room. That for me is an action that clearly lacks understanding, sense and reason; in a nutshell that is stupidity [2].
I however beg to disagree with a post suggesting that the Bhopal disaster was caused by an act of stupidity. Bhopal was an accident just waiting to happen because the manufacturing process allowed the storage of the intermediate product, Methyl Isocyanide (MIC) in such large volume well above the capacity of the storage tanks plus the many other near misses such as gas leaks and switching of safety systems to save money [3] 


Samuel Bamkefa's picture

To start with, I don't think we should split hairs over the word usage in this blog. The term 'stupidity' might have been used to make the statement more acute. I guess we all understand what this is about and we can use our own terms in our individual comment.

My perspective on this goes thus:

Humans are beings who have various parts to their existence. They are not machines that you program and get to work out your instructions without any other influence. Although the means to control the display of human recklessness may be put in place and may be effective, it may still be possible for some few occurences of laxity to come up. People think, get distracted, get too confident, get adventurous, etc. My point is that stupidity is here to stay, although the level at which it occurs and is SUSTAINED can be much controlled

I draw for some experience that I have working offshore. Most of the unsafe practices that I saw were brought to the notice of the worker involved by a fellow worker. It should be noted many of these defaulters were not greenhorns. There were times when some people assumed that they have already made some precuations because of how used they were to the process. On the other extreme, there were those that were not really used to the processes and had to be corrected by other workers on the floor

My main point here, is that safety is meant to be a collective endeavour in any organisation. The responsibility does not necessarily have to follow a vertical heirarchy, it can be horizontal as well. Therefore, the next worker, and not necessarily the supervisor is also responsible for the safety of his/her fellow. These people may be able to do more for each other than any process or supervision can get done


Samuel Bamkefa





In my opinion, the term ‘stupidity’ could
be extended to risk in human machine interaction. As mentioned by Samuel above,
human could be influenced by several factors for example individual mental
state, organizational culture, extreme circumstance (enclosed offshore topside
is definitely different with office) and so on. We cannot eliminate human
factor unless all working process are hiring automation. Even though, it can be
realized, human factor will be existed within my imagination.

So, I believe minimizing human factor would
be a practical approach to this matter which means giving a limited space for arbitrary
decision. For example, work procedure should describe the work step by step
with details and it contains any possible scenarios as much as they can. Covering
all possible case is not physically possible but grey area should be reported
to senior or manager for resolving as a principal.

Elaborated procedure is not a solution for itself.
Users must follow the rule. This is more related with site / organization culture.
Workers can be influenced by their co-workers and learn from training session. Establishing
a sound culture is required for long time but easy to be destroyed in a quick time. As
a result, continuous effort is needed for this.





Lee Soo Chyi's picture

"Organisational and human factors are the dominant root cause factors and together often estimated to constitute up to 80% of the cause of major accidents" (DVN 2010, p.4). Human factors can be human carelessness, poor design due to human error, skill-based errors, decision errors, violation, and perceptual errors. I worked in a shipyard before. The AFR is more than 3 fatalities per annum. Most of the fatalities are due to human factors, e.g. fell from scaffolding (without wearing a safety harnesses when working at height), hit by dropped object during heavy lift operation (without proper barricade), tank explosion (improper gas check). The other example is ‘Titanic’ accident. Combination of human error, engineering issues, hubris and fate conspired to bring down the Titanic. Few human factors that I can point out here are: the economic pressure, that is, the pressure to move ahead the schedule that given by the organisation (hubris and fate conspired), the decision error made by the Captain, and the design flaw made by the designer (engineering issues-insufficient lifeboat and lifejacket).



DNV (2010) ‘Key aspects of an effective U.S. Offshore Safety Regime’, Det Norske Veritas: position paper [Online]. Available at [Accessed 30 October 2012]. 


Soo Chyi, Lee

Connie Shellcock's picture

Going back to William’s very first post, I’m not sure if HSE legislation is
battling against human stupidity, but more so it is battling with the safety
culture of some companies. According to Deacon et al Humans make errors and the
number of errors made and the consequences of these errors is a direct
reflection of the of the work atmosphere, culture and the procedures followed ADDIN RW.CITE{{7 Deacon,T. 2010}}(Deacon, Amyotte et al.
In other words employees of a company will generally act as others do around
them and if that company happens to be practicing unsafe procedures, majority
of people will just go with the flow, knowing that what they are doing could
potentially cause an accident. I think this point ties in with what Mark Nicol
said in post three, where he described unsafe use of scaffolding. So to
conclude, I don’t think it is human stupidity that HSE regulations come up
against, but more like human nature.

AMYOTTE, P.R. and KHAN, F.I., 2010. Human error risk analysis in offshore
emergencies. Safety Science, 48(6), pp. 803-818.


Foivos Theofilopoulos's picture

Coming from a country where unfortunately recklessness and disobedience to safety regulations is considered "bravado", and if you add some basic sexism to it then you get to "real men disregard stupid regulations such as hard hats" (and I've heard that argument, mind you), I tend to agree with William and say that stupidity is not such a harsh word, after all. Yes, safety culture is important but it only comes second to culture itself. Humans are not reckless by nature. Genetically speaking, if humans were reckless in the earlier days of our species they could easily end up dead or incapacitated (which indirectly leads to the dead condition). Recklessness can be better attributed to the social behaviour of our species, and the whole "pack/herd mentality". Belief that our own survival lies with sticking to what the rest of the herd does is to blame for people copying their colleagues in unsafe tactics.

The way I see it, the fast pace of the 20th century has made us a little bit impatient. We want change, we want results and we want them now. Yes, HSE struggles against company cultures and unsafe traditions, but in my opinion things can only get better with time. When Karl Manheim [1] discussed that every generation is shaped by its parents, and you have the definition of a generation as approx. 25 years, I see that there is still time for unsafe "traditions" to be gradually ostracised until they belong to the past.


[1] Manheim, The Problem of Generations, 1923

William J. Wilson's picture

I would like to add to Andrew Allan’s comment about the important elements of human factors; he quite rightly stated that ergonomic design of equipment and facilities can minimise the mistakes made through human error, however, the fundamental key to minimising error through human factors is not necessarily via equipment design but rather healthy team dynamics by management of personnel and recognising that we are indeed all human.


Put very basically our essential needs, in priority order, are:

1.      Sustenance (water and food)

2.      Rest

3.      Shelter


If you ignore these, then errors will be made through, fatigue.  Guidelines for rests and breaks can be found at  (Does this apply to offshore Oil and Gas industry?) This is rather “prescriptive in outcome” but it indirectly protects us against human error.  I have often seen organisational pressure placed on team members to extend working hours and miss breaks.  This high operator expectation leads to many “good, sensible” people to become task orientated resulting in accidents or near misses.  I would not agree that bravado and stupidity are majority contributors to accidents.  Ie. The stupid technician without a hard hat on did not drop the heavy tool kit – the tired engineer above him did!


Maybe a “Goal setting” legislation towards management of the needs of the individual, team and task should be developed which incorporates awareness training at all team levels, thus minimising human factors errors.

William Wilson

MSc Subsea Engineering (DL)

Mark Haley's picture

What a great debate!! 
Top work to William Bradford to throw in a bit of controversy to get a
good debate going.


In reply to William Wilson. 
You have made a good point about understanding the needs of the ‘Human
Element’, within the system, but fatigue and its management is just one of many

When considering the human element and creating systems to
reduce error/stupidity you need to consider:

- The relevant psychological, physiological and
environmental factors that limit human performance

- The ergonomic factors that may affect performance and
contribute to error

- The management systems in place to improve performance and
reduce error

- Finally and probably most importantly, apply and encourage
a ‘Just Culture’


I fully agree with William Wilson in that bravado and stupidity
are not major contributors to accidents/incidents.  Most incidents occur from a person trying to
do their best and maybe cutting a few corners to get the job done quicker or
get more work done or to pressure from management to get more results.  I have seen this many times within my
industry (Aviation).  Whilst the
intentions are generally good, the results are not always good and as with Oil
& Gas, mistakes/errors can have severe consequences!

So what do we do about it? 
My last bullet point ‘Apply and Encourage a Just Culture’.  By encouraging this with open and honest
reporting we can learn from other people mistakes.  However it is important that individuals know
that they will not be punished for mistakes if they have followed procedures or
been put in a situation where they could not follow the procedures.  Equally, if an individual has been reckless
and knowingly avoided procedure due to malicious intent or laziness then they
should be held to account.

With the ability to report incidents via a confidential
system or an open system individuals understand that they can report a mistake
without fear.  With this others can learn
from that mistake, and management can further improve safety protocols to
prevent it from happening again.


Mark Haley

Adekola Obayomi's picture

An old English language idiom states that "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.” 

As safety ambassadors, we can only do our best to continuously emphasise the importance of safety in our environment, we cannot force people to conform to it, because individuals are responsible for the actions they take.  Although, we can punish them for the negligence, the damage would have already been done and unfortunately, the act may have had a negative impact on the life of others who are safety conscious.

Despite the amount of health and safety regulations available in all sectors of our economy today and the level of safety talks and posters all over offices and fabrication sites, it is difficult to comprehend that people can still go ahead and operate in an unsafe manner. The deep water horizon disaster where trained professionals decided to neglect the results of the cement integrity test cannot be over emphasized.

The only question we will always ask is WHY? The obvious answer can only be – it's human nature.

WilliamBradford's picture

That idiom is very fitting. It's shown everyday by drivers on the road, just because someone has a license and are aware of the laws regarding driving, it doesn't mean they'll follow the laws.

Also, another answer to your question could be human perception, i.e. just because it looks like a safety issue to one person doesn't mean it appears that way to anothe.

chukwuemeka uzukwu's picture

There are increasing calls for governments to use regulatory legislation to require employers to provide employees with a psychologically safe workplace. There is a lot of mis-information about health and safety. Some perpetuated by H&S professionals. This gives H&S a bad name and detracts from the important messages.

None of these are true

Human errors are random events that cannot be predicted or prevented.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There is nothing management can do to prevent violations

The stupid things people say

You can ignore health and safety because the HSE are too busy to catch anyone                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t need a harness – I’ve been working on roofs for 30 years and never fallen                                                                                                                                                                                                  Accidents won’t happen to me                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               We don’t need a trench box for this excavation, it’s good ground                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It must be true, because it is said in our health and safety policy                                                                                                                                                                                                                               We don’t have time to investigate any accident


There is relatively little prescriptive H&S legislation in world                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Risk assessment and management is the key                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Keep things simple and sensible so that people

Understand the message                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Are more likely to comply

Employers should be reminded of the "general duty" provision that exists within the safety legislation in their workplace. This duty requires employers to generally take every reasonable precaution to ensure health and safety in the workplace

Derek Porter.'s picture

I would like to introduce a known link between the effects of shift patterns used on offshore installations and the lack of ‘focus’ that has been mentioned in this blog.

In a common working pattern of 7 day followed by 7 night shifts on a total of 14 days offshore on a platform, there is proven research to suggest sleep, performance and alertness is greatly affected after the ‘turnover’ period. In a survey, the 7D/7N schedule received the least favourable ratings on a measure of ‘satisfaction with shift rotation’ (Parkes et al, 1997) although several companies still use this pattern. Would it not be obvious to listen to the demand of personnel and studies and act to improve this shift pattern?


Parkes, K. R., & Clark, M. J. (1997). Psychosocial aspects of work and health in the North Sea oil and gas industry. Part IV. The offshore environment in the mid-1990's: A Survey of Psychosocial Factors (OTH 96 530). London: Health and Safety Executive.

WilliamBradford's picture

To me, 7 day shifts and 7 night shifts seems like a bizarre idea. Surely it would make more sense to have people working the nightshift for their whole 14 days. To be fair, I've never worked a nightshift, and as such have no idea what a 14 day period of nightshifts would be like. On the bright side, at least they wouldn't be missing any spectacular offshore scenery throughout the night.

Ambrose Ssentongo's picture

I think the
legislation doesn’t put too much emphasis on the legal implication of accidents
on the individual involved in the mishappening if it was from his/her
negligence, failure to follow the company’s health and safety procedures in
place or any other kind of health and safety breach. Humanly (again human
factors at play), once we do not reflect and perceive any direct financial loss
or potential legal apprehension for an action, we can tend to be more laxed (in
regards to following safety procedures) in the way we execute it. The legislation
dwells a lot on criminal and civil liability on side of the employer and may be
if this was adjusted to make the employee a bit more responsible for any
accidents it might positively impact on how much more in regards to safety workers
will have diligence.

WilliamBradford's picture

You have a point, in a way. I've never been informed of any legal implications whilst enduring the long health & safety, and manual handling courses I've had to go on. But, to be fair, I've never known anyone to regard the legal implications of anything during day to day working. It certainly wouldn't cross my mind, I have no interest in any legal aspect of anything, but I'd attempt to do it safely regardless.

Neil Fraser James Carr's picture

I’m glad that stupid has been discussed to death. In my
opinion you are completely right, the HSE is constantly battling with
stupidity, austerity, bravado, cultures etc etc.


HSE website has resources ranging from the complex to the simplified and
generally anything that is a safety issue for the HSE filter through the work
force through upper management. The system attempts to be idiot proof by
influencing people’s behaviour towards protecting themselves and others through
an open threat that you are liable for the safety of your employees and the
people around your work environment. In the construction industry to reel in
some of the culprits of stupidity the CSC card and work history log are
utilised with offenders being black marked from reputable construction firms.
Initiatives like this are ideal and in some ways I guess the vantage system in
the north-sea can help in some ways by checking certifications and logging
offshore time.


us be honest about this though, stupid people do stupid things and will
eventually end up hurt or hurting others. These people will be punished by
employers, the public and the courts, whether these punishments are financial,
lack of reference or custodial is another matter.


brings me to my opinion on the matter, it will never be possible to make every
one do everything perfectly, all the HSE can really achieve is a balancing act
where the punishments and effects of a Safety failure out weigh the advantages
of cutting corners and not really showing the duty of car to those around you
that a task deserves.

WilliamBradford's picture

I like the idea of being able to give offenders a black mark, it adds a fair consequence to violation of regulations. I mean, if there's something that's going to decrease your employability, chances are you're going to try and avoid it.

Andreas Kokkinos's picture

Exactly like William stated in the beginning,
the most of the legislation related with the health and safety in a workplace,
have been formed and developed after major incidents. The reason is very
simple: “To avoid from happening again”.

The large factor of human stupidity and
ignorance regarding HSE measures can be established in many ways in any
industry. Basically, human stupidity does not require age and experience limit
since both workers with vast experience in dangerous environments and
inexperienced employees ignore and disregard potential hazards with result to
cause major avoidable incidents.

The HSE legislation role is to prevent this
behavior from occurring but despite the hard work from many responsible and
hard working people who fight for other’s safety, always there will be someone
there disregarding these measures and causes 
the incident. Thus, people who do not have anything to do such errors
may pay a heavy price due to someone else’s avoidable error.

Andreas Kokkinos

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

WilliamBradford's picture

I like your point about avoiding repeat incidents. Due to the fact that stupidity is unpredictable, all that can really be done is to, afterwards, modify the legislation to try to prevent it in the future.

Dear Colleague,


I too had witness such stupidity from my previous employment. Let me share two of them


  1. It was done from my peer, a young engineer, onboard Hyundai LNG Vessel Moss type. We have done the maintenance on the air bottle (pressure vessel supplying clean air for instrumentation- pressurized to 60bar) valves for the LNG vessel. Due to inexperience general worker, they installed the valve packer as to those for bulk tanker air bottle (pressurized to 9bar) which will caused problem for a 60 bar pressurized vessel. When the boiler were fire up, the pressure vessel were pressurized in order to prepare the ship for sail out. He(the engr) noticed air leaking when we did the final leak test. The valve configuration is in series of three valves. He then decided to closed the upstream valve to isolate the two valve and change the packers. 


    Afterward, he then dismantle the upstream valve, due to the immense pressure, the

    valve flung right past his face and the ship crew were forced to shut down their boiler and  depressurized the air bottle. This cause the vessel to delay in sailing out and inquiries where made.


  1. This happened on a different LNG vessel. it was in the evening around 4-5 pm. Several worker were carrying out lifting of metal box at the poop deck (vessel’s stern) into the gear room. It happened that we were experiencing thunderstorm for couple of day before that and all personnel were advised to stop work if the weather doesn’t permit. Three of the general worker we carrying out the task when thunder struck the crane boom and travel down the lifting wire/cable and causes serious 2nd-3rd degree burns.


In conclusion, no matter how strong the HSE policies are, people tend to forget or ignore it.  In above cases, HSE policies were ignored due to the tight scheduling and the demand to finish job ahead of schedule for the sake of incentive given by the vessel operators. People don’t do stupid things because they want to but rather they have to. 


In the event of Macondo incident, the driven factor for them to do mistakes that causes the live of 11 rig crew and a catastrophe environmental impact was due to BP is falling behind schedule about 43 days to that point and they are losing money as rig fees per day in average is approximately 1 million USD per day (Floaters). So towards the end they are cutting corners to reduce cost at the expense of safety. Do remember this happened not during drilling but in well completion for temporary abandonment program. 



  1. Graham, B., Reilly, W.K., etc . (2011). The Gulf Disaster ad the Future of Offshore Drilling. Report to the President : National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Dear Colleague,


I too had witness such stupidity from my previous employment. Let me share two of them


1.It was done from my peer, a young engineer, onboard Hyundai LNG Vessel Moss type. We have done the maintenance on the air bottle (pressure vessel supplying clean air for instrumentation- pressurized to 60bar) valves for the LNG vessel. Due to inexperience general worker, they installed the valve packer as to those for bulk tanker air bottle (pressurized to 9bar) which will caused problem for a 60 bar pressurized vessel. When the boiler were fire up, the pressure vessel were pressurized in order to prepare the ship for sail out. He(the engr) noticed air leaking when we did the final leak test. The valve configuration is in series of three valves. He then decided to closed the upstream valve to isolate the two valve and change the packers. 


Afterward, he then dismantle the upstream valve, due to the immense pressure, the valve flung right past his face and the ship crew were forced to shut down their boiler and  depressurized the air bottle. This cause the vessel to delay in sailing out and inquiries where made.


2.This happened on a different LNG vessel. it was in the evening around 4-5 pm. Several worker were carrying out lifting of metal box at the poop deck (vessel’s stern) into the gear room. It happened that we were experiencing thunderstorm for couple of day before that and all personnel were advised to stop work if the weather doesn’t permit. Three of the general worker we carrying out the task when thunder struck the crane boom and travel down the lifting wire/cable and causes serious 2nd-3rd degree burns.


In conclusion, no matter how strong the HSE policies are, people tend to forget or ignore it.  In above cases, HSE policies were ignored due to the tight scheduling and the demand to finish job ahead of schedule for the sake of incentive given by the vessel operators. People don’t do stupid things because they want to but rather they have to. 


In the event of Macondo incident, the driven factor for them to do mistakes that causes the live of 11 rig crew and a catastrophe environmental impact was due to BP is falling behind schedule [1] about 43 days to that point and they are losing money as rig fees per day in average is approximately 1 million USD per day (Floaters)[2]. So towards the end they are cutting corners to reduce cost at the expense of safety. Do remember this happened not during drilling but in well completion for temporary abandonment program. 




1.Graham, B., Reilly, W.K., etc . (2011). The Gulf Disaster ad the Future of Offshore Drilling. Report to the President : National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.


2.IHS (16 November 2012).Updated on the third Friday of each month, the IHS Petrodata Day Rate Indices track the movement of competetive mobile offshore drilling fleet dat rates and utilization for four rig categories. Available at 

[Accessed on 25 November 2012]

WilliamBradford's picture

Thanks for sharing your stories, I find it interesting to hear experiences of health and safety incidents (mostly).

There was a similar incident to your first where I work. A large ball valve was being pressure tested using water (luckily it wasn't air) when suddenly, the valve failed and exploded, at which point the (rather large) gearbox quickly exited the test cell and traveled quite a distance.

Ekaterina Pavlichenko's picture

I love reading the comments here; this is the best debate on the whole blog! So for my contribution:

In Russia we have an old joke; ‘Nothing is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious’, which sums up exactly the situation faced by HSE vs. Stupidity. In my opinion Stupidity equals lack of training, lack of discipline, lack of education; indeed the list goes on and on, but the one common denominator in all the statements would be the words, ‘lack of’! This will only change when ‘lack of’ becomes the words ‘more of’ and this will only happen when the culture that individuals work within changes too. ‘More of’ means more support, more education and ‘more’ importantly…more on the job professional training!

But don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold with the nandy pandy, soft and feely, warm and soft culture that normally is espoused by those who would live in a world where ‘no-one is stupid’. Strict discipline would be my measuring stick and those that live in a culture of ‘mañana’ or masculine bravado would soon find themselves pushing the exit door open and finding alternative employment!    

WilliamBradford's picture

You have a great point (especially the last part, and the joke, that was good)

I'd just like to make a note on changing 'lack of' to 'more of', I absolutely agree with this. But, in my experience, most people are given the same health and safety training, and the same values are demonstrated to each individual. The difficulty doesn't lie within the implementation of the 'more of', it lies with the individual, and their willingness to accept their responsiibility towards the collective safety culture of their workplace

William J. Wilson's picture

Sorry Ekaterina I have to agree with WilliamBradford on this one. Changing the "lack of" to "more of" will not solve any issues unless it is used in the sentence: “more of” a safety culture.  The idea that giving people further education will prevent accidents is inaccurate and adding more to the mentoring schemes for young and inexperienced staff would only make tasks longer and more of a chore.  Simply extending the fields of a mentor report that is aimed at building the development of a professional on the job would not make the individual any safer.  Similar to what williamBradford mentioned it is the culture the individual is exposed to which will determine their attitude towards risk and when they become mentors their attitude is passed on to their juniors.  Adding more is not necessarily the key but managing effectively what you have is.  Lastly, adding “more of” also costs money!

William Wilson
MSc Subsea Engineering

Dear all,


The fundamental of this issue in my opinion would be the “safety attitude”. Measures could be imposed unto workers but how will it not only affects them in work place but also at home. 


There is a saying that “human are creatures of habit”, thus, I would like to urge us to view this on a bigger and broader perspective. On how safety would impact our everyday routines. I still remember that my yard impose unto every car owner to reverse park and until this day I would reverse park my car.


Back when I used to visit Shell Labuan office, it is compulsory for any staircase users to free one hand to use the handrail. In addition, car inside the yard should not exceed speed  limit of 30 km/h and seat belt should be fasten all the time while driving. Furthermore, all motorcycle user should always don their helmets whenever traveling inside the yard.


Thus, the effectiveness of safety measure should not only gauged on what we do in the yard / at workplace but also extend outside workplace.




Mohamed H. Metwally's picture

Regulations are is something that human usually tends to escape from especially when he does not understand the reason behind it.

Oftentimes there are very good reasons behind some safety rule but  the individual still insists that no harm in violating it...I give you example.

Banning the use of cell phone in gas stations has a very strong scientific basis, but people seem to be absolutely not convinced.

The worst type of stupidity is when you think you are not stupid... 

Etienne Gunter's picture

When we look back at major accidents (or even smaller ones) certain words come to mind:
Negligence, irresponsible, ignorance etc.

Why is that? Creating more regulations to make up for previous disasters will not (necessarily) solve the problem. Every situation is unique and you cannot predict its characteristics. I believe the root problem of most accidents is why (some) people still choose to ignore basic rules that they know are there to protect them (or others) from obvious danger. i.e. look at drunk driving or speeding.

I think it is a combination of lack of self-discipline (from the transgressor) as well as a culture where it is frowned upon when reprimanding an individual, peer or senior, when their conduct is unacceptable. We tend to appoint someone whose responsibility is to catch the transgressors instead of everyone contributing to a safer environment.

I believe that instead of creating more rules and regulations, effort must first be made in changing this behavioural characteristic at all company levels, where there is a culture of self-discipline and where people assist each other in achieving this.

Bassey Kufre Peter's picture

2011 Japan FUKUSHIMA I accidents is
a good example that showcase the struggle between HSE Legislation and human

to the 2012  report from the Nuclear
Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame : "The Japan’s atomic safety
rules are inferior to global standard and  left the country unprepared for the FUKUSHIMA nuclear
disaster last March "[1]  also  according to a report from  The Economist News Paper: "The reactors at Fukushima were of an
old design. The risks they faced had not been well analysed. The operating
company was poorly regulated and did not know what was going on. The operators
made mistakes. The representatives of the safety inspectorate fled. Some of the
equipment failed. The establishment repeatedly played down the risks and
suppressed information about the movement of the radioactive plume, so some
people were evacuated from more lightly to more heavily contaminated places"


These two reports shows cross negligence the path of the Regulators and operators in
enforcing the safety rules governing Japanese Nuclear Power Companies and this
included insufficient protection against tsunamis. Operators should give
training to their staff regularly and also ensure that qualified persons are
recruited to ensure that such negligence  is avoided and the Regulators should
intensified their operations to ensure that HSE laws are fully implemented.


[1]The world Nuclear Association [online], Available
, Accessed on 9th Dec. 2012.

[2] Nuclear power can be kept safe only by
constantly worrying about their dangers. [online], Available on:
, Accessed on 9th Dec. 2012.


Bassey, Kufre Peter
M.Sc-Subsea Engineering-2012/2013
University of Aberdeen.

Manuel Maldonado's picture

I agree with Chyi and particularly when she mentioned that he has an experience working in a shipyard. That experience is a very different for the oil industry workers. I can say that after having worked in other 5 different countries and especially when most of my career has been developed in the UK and most of main experienced gained in the offshore North Sea, the shipyard experience in one of the far east countries was something really interesting. What Chyi mentioned is more than the true of working under pressure maybe due to economic reasons or

Based on those experiences (North Sea highly regulated the shipyard maybe with some safety standards by not reinforced) I think that the subject of discussion "The constant struggle of HSE legislation and the human stupidity" needs to be analysed in terms of place and time. It is also related to human development, education, background and cultural factors. Maybe for some of us with North Sea experience stupidity would be some of those things that we can see in that shipyard Those things such as people working without wearing PPE in congested areas with workers above and below, people working at high with not harness or some of them pulling heavy loads with ropes and some many potential drop objects around would not be accepted at all in the UK sector. However, you can see North Sea personnel and ironically safety personnel who you can see leading safety in the North Sea, visiting the shipyard installation and walking on those ships while waiting for them to be completed. Obviously, they seem to be concerned but the only argument for accepting that is that "that is an international operation which of course is different from a North Sea environment". Now, let's imagine a worker from that shipyard on a North Sea installation perhaps he won't be injured if he continues being lucky but that would be an unacceptable behaviour and he would be breaking all exiting safety rules and maybe deviating from the legislation.

What we can see is that the drivers are different depending on the country and working environments. Legislations could be different or maybe similar but reinforcement and liabilities are different and depend on the country culture and legislation. I believe that what is different is the formation of the workers, the training and the values which can be affected by cultural issues or other drivers and motivations. This becomes then something cultural and the only way to make a total change of this behaviour is through education. If we want to stop those things we see as stupidity we have to focus on creating safety awareness through reinforcement of policies, rules and a due training. This can then result in changing the perception of safety and the respect for the rules and legislation.

Legalisation will evolve as new safety issues but
legalisation only acts as a deterrent. Human factors will always pose a risk to
work being carried out and mistakes will always happen as no one is perfect.

The Health and safety culture of company can influence human
behaviour and help make the right decision. A strong health and safety culture
is best achieved through a good management system.

The good management system will look to constantly improve Health
and safety standards and requires all stakeholders to be involved. Communicating
what is expected of the employees and through regular training ensuring they
have the skills and knowledge to undertake there work. Training will go a long
way to reduce the human factors in accidents and not assume things are common
sense.  Common sense is developed through
experiences and what is obvious to some people is not to others. Regular
training and reinforcement of safety is the best method to reduce accidents.

James Parry
MSc Subsea Engineering

Yaw Akyampon Boakye-Ansah's picture


will always be laws proposed and enacted by humans but once in a while, most
people think it more convenient to work at getting things done faster but in a
less secure manner. As I learnt from an EHS session, "no work is too
important not to be done safely".

Humans naturally want things to
be done quicker without looking at immediate risks or evaluating the situation
to enhance one's chances of reducing injuries. Some people see laws as
prohibitive and not encompassing real life scenarios. They think that certain
limitations propounded by laws are only ideal.  Thus, they act otherwise
than when the laws are not applied.

Some workers are always
convinced that they know the processes involved in a particular task all too
well. Some of these workers cut corners and skip rules to get their work done.
They are just as hazardous to the process as totally inexperienced workers.

How many of us have not crossed
the road hurriedly because we felt there was no vehicle in near sight although
we did not look around the curve? How many of us have not left water around
electrical and electronic equipment?

Some situations though pose
more risk to us, the environment and other people (coworkers, pedestrians,
customers etc.) than others. Every factor in any process can be largely
attributed to human error. As my post under suggests, over 90% of all process errors
can be attributed to humans. 

The laws will always be there
but it will take a strong culture of safety and sometimes penalties and
outright dismissals to get all workers working safely. The onus also rests on
employers to provide adequate and periodic safety training for workers who are
convinced they are very adept with certain processes. They are more likely to cause
more harm than good.


Yaw A. Boakye-Ansah

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering





I think this is a very interesting topic. I like to think
every human has a stupid side, and that every one (especially us engineers)
have a problem solving ability. It is when they are combined in certain circumstance
where we get some of the most ‘stupid' actions.

I am sure everyone has looked at problem whether it was, the
most practical way of getting the toast out of the toaste, or whether it be
fixing a fixture on a crane 20 meter up and across their mind has occurred the thought,
use the fork or just climb up the rigging and use that heavy wrench. The things
that stop us from doing these things are commonsense led by better judgment, what
we have been taught and the legislation which forbids such actions.

As legislation continues to grow more and more of these circumstance
are being outline reducing the risk of the ‘stupidity'. However I don't think
it will ever be able to cover all eventualities. There will always be an issue
which someone will come up with a quick fix which for some reason will mean
putting someone or something at risk.

It is clear that legislation and the implementation of it
does reduce incident immensely, comparing the UK incident reports against many
other countries whom have less legislation the difference would be more than enough
evidence to prove it works.

I would like to bring up another point within this section.
If your car had recived some damage and you needed to get it fixed there was a problem
with the underside of the car, it needed a some welding and a number of other
touch ups.  Your got quotes from two
garages who produced the exact same results when fixing the car.  The first garage followed all procedure to the
tee, the used all certified equipment and followed all legislation. They quoted
you £2000.

The second garage completed the same tasks to the same level
as the first but there methods we less orthodox, using equipment which was out
of inspection date and not certified, none legislation procedure and at times
put themselves at risk. These procedures meant hey could complete the job in
half the time and they charged you £1000.

Which garage would you choose???

Please reply and let me know your thoughts??


Thanks  Liam Slaven






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Monday Michael's picture

On 16th November 2012, there was a fire and explosion on board the West Delta 32 oil platform located approximately 18miles southeast of Grand Isle, Louisiana. The platform is operated by Black Elk Engergy. The incident resulted in the death of 3 workers and injury to several others[1].
It is understood the fire started when workers were cutting a oil line with a touch, residual oil from the line could have combined with natural gas or a spark from the touch resulting in a fire and subsequently explosion [2]. The details of the incident are still very sketchy but one thing is clear: that sufficient precautions were not taken by the workers, who are professionals in their own right, in the execution of a hot work on an oil platform [3].
The safety record of Black Elk Energy is not very encouraging [4] which goes to suggest that the company may be complicit in the indident of November 16th, not just an act of 'stupidity' by the workers of the subcontracting firm who should have used a cutting saw for the job instead of a touch.

[1] [2]

Andrew Strachan's picture

Health and Safety law requires that the employee be responsible for safety and others around him/her. It is incumbent on the employer to provide sufficient training and supervision.

If an employee is fully trained i.e. is aware of the risks involved in his task (or the measures which MUST complied with to carry out his task safely) and is wilfully reckless, then the blame for any accident should lie with that employee.

However if supervision is required to ensure the task is being carried out safely either due to criticality or complexity, then the responsibility should still lie with the employer.

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