Organizational Aspects of Engineering System Safety: The Case of Offshore Platforms

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Science  30 Nov 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4985, pp. 1210-1217
DOI: 10.1126/science.250.4985.1210


Organizational errors are often at the root of failures of critical engineering systems. Yet, when searching for risk management strategies, engineers tend to focus on technical solutions, in part because of the way risks and failures are analyzed. Probabilistic risk analysis allows assessment of the safety of a complex system by relating its failure probability to the performance of its components and operators. In this article, some organizational aspects are introduced to this analysis in an effort to describe the link between the probability of component failures and relevant features of the organizaton. Probabilities are used to analyze occurrences of organizational errors and their effects on system safety. Coarse estimates of the benefits of certain organizational improvements can then be derived. For jacket-type offshore platforms, improving the design review can provide substantial reliability gains, and the corresponding expense is about two orders of magnitude below the cost of achieving the same result by adding steel to structures.

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