How do organizational structures impact operational safety? Part 2 - Designing structures that strengthen safety




Monteiro, Gilsa
Hopkins, Andrew
Melo, Paulo Fernando Frutuoso e

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Part 1, the companion paper to this paper, discusses how decentralization undermines operational safety. A case study is presented, and three real situations experienced by an oil and gas company are described, revealing how the decentralized structure contributed to the negative outcomes observed in each case. The examples demonstrate the need for an operational safety structure with a higher degree of centralization and a greater independence from business pressures. In this second paper (Part 2), a design strategy is then proposed to strengthen this safety function. In the suggested structure, a more centralized and independent control of risks is achieved, without losing the ability to quickly identify and effectively address the safety issues at the asset level. A balance between functional centralization and physical decentralization is adopted, with dedicated operational safety experts physically located at the operational units, but answerable to high-level specialists positioned along an independent functional line that goes all the way to the top of the organization. This second paper also discusses why companies resist to the idea of adopting a more centralized control of risks and perform structural changes only after the occurrence of a major accident. Some typical arguments that are used in the corporate world to justify a decentralized safety function are discussed and called into question. Finally, the interfaces between operational and personal safety are recognized to suggest an integrated design.



Organizational structure, Culture, Operational safety, Decentralization, Centralization, Major accidents



Safety Science


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