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Safety First, Results Later? Why Drilling Also Needs Human-Centred Solutions

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By Christiaan McLeod, Mission Performance CRM Instructor

drill workers

Drilling is a complex dance – a high-pressure environment demanding peak performance from people and machines.  Safety Management Systems (SMS) are a crucial tool, but a sobering fact emerges from the IADC’s 2022 Incident Statistics Program Annual Report: Even with SMS, incidents are on the rise.

The report reveals a concerning trend:

Lost Time Incidents Up: Compared to 2021, Lost Time Incidents (LTIs) jumped by nearly 18% in 2022. This means more workers are being injured and missing work.

Recordable Incidents Rise: Recordable incidents, including injuries requiring medical attention, also saw a significant increase of over 15%.

Fatalities a Grim Reminder: The number of fatalities doubled from 2021, highlighting the human cost of drilling incidents.

Why aren’t SMS programs delivering the hoped-for results?

While SMS excels at managing procedures and technical risks, it often overlooks the human element.  Fatigue, communication breakdowns, and situational awareness gaps can bypass even the most detailed protocols.

SMS + HF CRM = Safety Culture

Enter Human Factors Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training:

This training goes beyond procedures, focusing on the human dimension of safety.  Here’s how CRM empowers drilling crews:

Communication and Teamwork: CRM fosters open communication, allowing crews to identify hazards, voice concerns, and work together to mitigate risks.

Decision-Making Under Pressure: CRM equips personnel with skills to manage stress, fatigue, and situational awareness, leading to better decisions in critical moments.

Leadership and Shared Responsibility: Effective CRM training cultivates leadership that prioritizes safety while empowering everyone to take responsibility for their own and their crew’s well-being.

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Senior Associate David Mugridge explains Situational Awareness

The Path to a Safer Future:

By combining a robust SMS with Human Factors CRM Training, drilling operators can create a more comprehensive safety strategy.  This approach fosters a culture of safety where:

Procedures are understood, not just followed blindly.

  • – Open communication allows for early identification and mitigation of risks.
  • – Teamwork and shared responsibility become the norm.

The IADC report serves as a wake-up call.  Let’s move beyond relying solely on SMS and embrace a human-centred approach to safety.  By investing in CRM training, drilling operators can empower their crews to make safety a core value, not just a checklist item.  

The result: fewer incidents, a happier healthier workforce, and a more sustainable drilling future.

As a B Corp, it’s a careful line we tread when working with the Fossil Fuel industry, but it’s these people who will see us through the long road to 100% green energy. We have an obligation to ensure that the people within these organisations are as safe and happy as they can be as a large portion of accidents leading to natural disasters happen due to human error in a high-pressure environment.

If you would like to book a call to discuss Human Factors CRM and how it can enhance your existing Safety Management System then please email:

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