Safety progress


From outer space to deep seas

The space industry has been incorporating human factors into their training for many years. Maersk Drilling aims at reducing safety related incidents to exactly zero no later than in 2018. And in order to fulfil that goal we have to learn from the best in the space industry: NASA. To instruct offshore crews in human factors at the new simulator-training centre in Houston, Maersk Training has appointed Evelyn Baldwin and Michele Blanton, who have lots of valuable experience from their years of work with NASA and the Human Space Flight Program.

Human factor competencies are key to improving critical capability building. We have asked Evelyn Baldwin and Michele Blanton a few question about the role of human factors in the safety of offshore drilling and how they apply their experience from outer space to deep seas.

What are human factors?

Michele: Human factors are the non-technical skills that are used every day when performing a technical job. Items such as leadership, teamwork, communication, situational awareness, decision-making, and personal shaping factors are all human factors.

Evelyn: Human factors are the accumulation of all skills and abilities that the individual brings to a situation. This includes non-technical skills and how they are used together with technical skills. When a person (and a team) can effectively use their tools, they are more successful at breaking the error chain.

Which roles does human factors play in the safety of offshore drilling?

Michele: Human factors play an important part of offshore drilling. It is estimated that anywhere from 70% to 90% of all incidents/accidents are due to human factors. Being aware of how humans affect the work environment and how they can implement certain behaviours to make the work environment a safer place is important.

Evelyn: Clearly offshore drilling depends on the success of the team. The challenge of offshore drilling is that the size, shape and individuals that make up teams is constantly shifting. It is imperative that individuals are well trained in human factors and how they can best contribute as a team member. 

How are human factors incorporated into the trainings conducted at the facility?

Michele: Human factors are incorporated into training through classroom and simulator training. At the simulator-training centre, the facilities provide a great opportunity for the oil companies and drilling contractors to practice difficult cases or experience malfunctions that would be catastrophic on the rig during actual operations, if the crew were to make a human error.

Evelyn: With respect to human factors, what we see is that in the classroom, students are able to easily identify the characteristics and skills needed for good teamwork and communication. However, ‘walking the walk’ so to speak, is much more difficult. The team simulation scenarios is where the students can practice using the skills. This is where we can see’ ah-ha’ moments. Human factors are like weight-loss. You know what you need to do but it takes continual thoughtful practice and training to make it part of your lifestyle.

How can you apply your experience in your current job?

Michele: The space industry has been incorporating human factors into their training for many years. My experience working in the NASA Human Space Flight program allows me to take years of experience and knowledge that NASA has used in its training flows to reduce incidents/accidents and apply them to the oil and gas industry.

Evelyn: Like offshore drilling, the space station is a very expensive and highly technical ship. It takes many different systems and personnel to run it. There are many similarities between the two industries and the importance of the human factors span both. At NASA, we learned that the simulator is by far the most meaningful way of training non-technical skills.  


Name: Evelyn Baldwin
Job title: Human Factors Instructor, Maersk Training, Houston, Texas 
Experience: Evelyn has spent 13 years with NASA with the majority of that time working on the human factors side of training. She was also a communication and tracking instructor while at NASA. After NASA, Evelyn joined the BOP Control Systems with GE Oil and Gas. 

Name: Michele Blanton 
Job title: Human Factors Instructor, Maersk Training, Houston, Texas 
Experience: Michele worked with NASA in the Human Space Flight area for 14 years where she trained flight controllers and astronauts in both technical aspects of systems and human factors. Before leaving NASA, Michele helped develop the manned spaceflight vehicle, Orion

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