Major Disasters Offshore: What is the impact of Situational Awareness?

Dr. Kathryn Mearns, Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen discusses the concept of Situational Awareness in Offshore Crews in a recent podcast interview.
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Situational Awareness



Dec. 10, 2010 - PRLog -- The Deep Water Horizon disaster in April this year resulting in the death of 11 workers and uncontrolled spilling of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for the following weeks once more highlighted the need for higher safety standards on offshore rigs. The disaster impacts all parts of the industry dealing with offshore activities, at a time when  Europe, and especially the North Sea area, are affected by new laws concerning health and safety regulations impacting the work offshore. Governments, regulatory bodies and associations have a heightened focus on safety as the industry moves to reduce the risk of further catastrophe. EU energy and transport ministers recently stated “that a vast majority of the EU's oil and gas production takes place offshore and stressed their support to activities, aimed at EU leadership in the promotion of global safety of offshore operations.”

The oil and gas industry is at a turning point when it comes to finding new ways of ensuring health and safety standards for offshore activities. Situational awareness is one method that offshore crews can adapt to try and prevent disasters like the oil spill in the Mexican Gulf. Situational awareness is a concept describing the ability of employees to be aware of their work environment, their immediate surroundings and the status and state of mind of their colleagues, to understand what is going on and then interpret that information to make accurate predictions about how situations may develop in the future. Only if problems are revealed and dealt with in a reasonable and responsible way, can catastrophes be prevented.

In a recent podcast, Dr. Kathryn Mearns, Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, discusses her paper on Situational Awareness in Offshore Crews and explains that implementing and managing stress levels in any workforce is critical, as well as focusing on sleep disruption and workload, Dr. Mearns talks about other studies conducted by her faculty, such as safety climate and safety culture within the industry. Key findings of these studies reveal that there is a new concept about a leadership style called Authentic Leadership, which involves being true to one's own values and being consistent and fair in the treatment of others. Leaders employing this leadership style are trying to implement a high level of integrity, in turn generating trust in order to maintain employees' reporting of incidents, which occurs more often if they feel that they are not going to get blamed.

Dr. Kathryn Mearns will also give a session about Situational Awareness on 1st of March 2011 during the Offshore Safety Summit taking place 28th February - 1st March 2011 in Aberdeen, Scotland. The session will give more insights on defining situational awareness and its impact in incident prevention offshore, measuring the impact of workload, stress and fatigue, and their impact upon situational awareness and analysing the findings of a research study into the situational awareness of offshore crews and the direct link to accident prevention. According to Dr. Mearns, the focus of the oil and gas industry has to be constantly on managing risk and implementing safety measures and safety interventions to prevent hazards being realised.  


Note to editors: for further information about the Offshore Safety Summit see

The Offshore Safety Summit is focusing on discussing the prevention and reaction and response to major oil field disasters offshore.

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