Soft Causes with Hard Consequences: The role of organisational factors in the creation of structural integrity
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSafety Science Monitor. 2015, 19 (2), .
Structural integrity is usually seen as a result of design, calculations, the correct choice of materials and good engineering practice in general. In this paper, we will shed light on organisational aspects that can influence structural integrity. Based on a review of accident investigations, interviews and a questionnaire survey, we will show how structural integrity is influenced by organisational processes that can generate latent conditions for major accidents. We will show that there are weaknesses in the way that the design and manufacturing of oil installations are organised. We argue that these weaknesses can constitute a form of drift, making it more likely that the latent conditions for major accidents will be introduced and allowed to remain unnoticed. Major accidents are usually the result of combinations of several contributing factors. We find two broad categories of challenges that may constitute latent preconditions for major accidents. First, our data indicates that the power and status of structural engineering professionals is declining. A form of cultural shift seems to have taken place, where the advice of the companies' top engineers is less authoritative than that which has hitherto been the case. The second category of contributing factors consists of deficiencies related to the integration of the different phases, from choice of concept to operation of the facility, and between the different actors involved in this process. The paper concludes with a number of suggested measures for improvement.