I’m at the APIA Convention, shortly before going to the closing dinner. For those who are here or have been to Conventions in the past it needs no description. For those who haven’t it is an amazing combination of conference, trade show, networking opportunity and big party. I never have enough time to connect with all the people I would like to talk to, but it’s still the best opportunity each year.
From my perspective a highlight of the Convention this year has been the weighting given to human factors in the selection of presentations. As well as a diversity of great presentations on engineering and business topics there were two presentations from the EPCRC RP4 program (sociology of safety), another two that gave a psychological perspective on safety, and others included knowledge transfer, engineer training, project managers vs. operations, and an interesting story on fatigue issues. That’s about one third of the papers. It’s becoming normal to talk about organisational culture and its implications for safety which can only be a good thing. You can’t eliminate the potential for failure by engineering alone; people will have unique ways of making things go wrong.
Some of the papers also emphasised the fundamental difference between safety in the WHS sense (personnel safety) and public or operational safety (preventing catastrophic pipeline failures). This distinction has been clear to me for so long that I’m always a bit surprised when I hear of people who don’t grasp it but I think the message is spreading. They are very different. Both are important but they require quite different approaches.
This is a great industry to be part of.