Resilience-based safety management

Resilience-based safety management

This is a topic page to show an overview of a sub field of Integrated operations, describing the knowledge developed by the IO Center

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Resilience Engineering, a resilience-based approach to safety management, is a new, supplementary approach to management of safety that focus on abilities of a system to adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following changes and disturbances so that it can sustain its required operation under both expected and unexpected conditions. IO provides opportunities to strengthen resilient abilities in socio-technical systems. At the same time, IO solutions creates challenges in terms of complex socio-technical systems which require new approaches to major accident loss prevention and risk analysis. Research activities at the IO center has aimed at: 1) communicating the purpose, rationale and content of resilience engineering in an IO context to the industry; 2) empirical research to identify and understand resilient work processes in an IO context and 3) develop and test methods and approaches to resilience-based safety management in IO


Resilience Engineering, a resilience-based approach to safety management, is a new, supplementary approach to management of safety that focus on abilities of a system to adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following changes and disturbances so that it can sustain its required operation under both expected and unexpected conditions.

Resilience can be defined as the intrinsic ability of a system to adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following changes and disturbances, so that it can sustain required operations under both expected and unexpected conditions. The unexpected conditions may be risks, but may also be opportunities. A resilient system must be able to cope with both.

Theories on resilience engineering have been deployed in several research activities within subproject in phase I at the IO Center. These reserach activities can be placed in three interdependent groups:

Purpose, rationale and contents of resilience engineering

The main ideas of resilience-based safety management in an IO context is described in this white paper . In addition workshops and seminars with industrial pariticipation has been arranged.

Contents of resilience engineering

The essential characteristic of a resilient system is the ability to adjust its functioning so that it can succeed in a variety of situations – in particular difficult ones. In order to accomplish this, four basic abilities are required.

  • how to respond to regular and irregular threats and opportunities, either by relying on a prepared set of responses, by adjusting everyday performance, or by finding new ways of functioning (innovation)
  • how to monitor that which is or can become a threat or an opportunity in the near term. The monitoring must cover both that which happens in the environment and that which happens in the system itself, i.e., it must be able to monitor – and manage – its own performance.
  • how to learn from experience, in particular how to learn the right lessons from the right experience – successes as well as failures. A resilient organisation will learn all the time rather than wait for something (bad) to happen.
  • how to anticipate developments, threats, and opportunities further into the future, such as potential changes, disruptions, pressures, customer demands, legislation and their consequences

A resilience-based approach to safety management considers everything an organisation does from the viewpoint of the system rather than from the viewpoint of individual activities. It also considers work-as-done rather than work-as -imagined, i.e., it refers to how things are done in practice rather than to how there were planned to be done. By using the four abilities mentioned above, it becomes possible to see how various functions and activities depend on each other, often as a result of performance adjustments that gradually have become habit. Without this it is impossible effectively to address hazards, vulnerabilities, and opportunities in such a way that each can be dealt with in a manner that enhances the system’s ability to sustain required operations.


The aim of resilience-based management is not only to prevent things from going wrong, but also to ensure that things go right. In the first case, safety (Safety-I) is characterised by the absence of adverse events, and safety efforts are aimed at preventing the occurrence of malfunctions and/or the elimination of risks. In the second case (Safety-II or resilience engineering), safety is characterised by the ability to succeed under expected and unexpected conditions alike, and safety efforts are aimed at facilitating everyday activities in order to ensure that they succeed. Working to ensure that things go right will not only improve safety (since something cannot go right and wrong at the same time), but also contribute to the improvement of quality and productivity.

Why do we need resilience management in an IO context?

Today, most high risk systems such as oil and gas operations, have an abundance of safety ‘nets,’ barrier systems, safety management systems, safety assessment and assurance processes, and many are also improving their safety culture. All of these have been developed from a Safety-I perspective, and together serve to reduce the number of things that go wrong.

The many efforts add layers of safety to already safe systems, but also make them more complex, hence more difficult to understand, monitor, and control. And while the multiple safety functions will further reduce the likelihood of accidents, it also means that those that do slip through these ‘nets’ will be complex and multi-faceted. Future accidents may therefore be more due to coincidences among the variability of functions and human performance in different parts of the system 

Resilient work processes in an IO context 

Case studies of an onshore drilling support centre and emergency preparedness exercises have identified resilient work process by use of collaboration technologies. By these case studies, premises and underlying qualities that need to be in place to ensure resilient abilities have been identified

For both drilling and well operations as well as emergency handling, adaption to situations is a key ability in sharp-end activities. By applying the four main abilities of resilience it has been identified how work practices in the onshore support centers contribute to a system's resilience, including sharp-end resilient work practises. 

Ability to monitor what is going on is created as the onshore centre becomes "the second pair of eyes". This ability is strengthened as the onshore centers have the possibility of doing deep-going analysis of possible problems that may occur. By the centers multi-disciplinary teams they are capable of interpreting real-time data in a better way that improves the ability to detect abnormalities and trends. The case studies indicate that open-plan offices are an important mean for sharing information in order to monitor what is going on.

Ability to anticipating future developments is created, as the centers are able to recognize phenomena and situations that are about to occur. When pre-warnings of such events are recognized, resources can be allocated so that monitoring can be increased and responses prepared. the centers have an ability to adapt to the situation to strengthen the anticipation ability by focusing on problems they suspect may happen and prepare solutions to cope with the possible challenges.

Ability to learn. The experience from past drilling operations gives important input to planning and preparations of the future drilling operations

Ability to respond. The monitoring of the drilling process and anticipation of events make the system able to catch signs of risks and make alerts to determine early responses. The onshore center has the flexibility to focus on areas they feel there is a need to monitor or do analysis

The case studies have identified the following premises and underlying qualities that need to be in place to ensure resilient abilities in the collaboration between offshore operations and onshore support centers:

  • Work in team of experts in open space offices creates an environment for collaboration, sharing of ideas and knowledge, and redundancy. Organizational processes facilitating collaboration, like planning meetings and evaluations.
  • Make employees familiar with the systems they work with and gives the right knowledge.
  • Extensive use of analyses. Application of statistical and mathematical analysis on real-time as well as historical data may serve as valuable decision support during planning and operation. Combined with experience, more can be anticipated and operations can be safer and more stable.
  • Reports from operations and drilling projects, risk assessments and procedures for handling different types of situations should be documented and shared within the whole organization.
  • The organization should courage its people to question the established and not take past successes as a guarantee for future success but instead constantly look for risks. Being curious about how the system and its environment functions may help people understand the system better and know what is the most important details to focus on in order to monitor and respond to risks 

Methods and approaches to resilience-based safety management in IO

The Resilience Analysis Grid (RAG)

The RAG has been developed as an easy-to-use way of obtaining the resilience profile of an organisation. The purpose of the RAG is to produce a relative rather than an absolute rating or evaluation of the resilience of an organisation. The RAG is designed to be used repeatedly, and the importance is the changes in the resilience profile between consecutive ratings, rather than the absolute ratings. This can, for instance, be used to show the effects of changes made, hence support resilience management. 

The basis of the RAG are the four abilities of a resilient organisation mentioned above. Starting with these abilities it is possible to develop sets of more specific questions. The questions should be tailored to match the characteristics of the organisation, and of the particular aspect of functioning that is in focus. (The specific questions can, of course, also be used as a basis for thinking about how to improve the resilience of the organisation.) These questions can then be answered by the people involved in the work, from operators to managers.

To illustrate that, the figure below shows an example of a set of questions developed to look at the integrated planning process in an oil company. In this example, the questions are answered simply byticking the appropriate box. This makes it possible to get a
quick rating of the current state of resilience (in this case vis-a-vis integrated planning). The ease of getting the ratings is important for the use of the RAG as a basis for resilience management.

Example of questionnaire in RAG

The result of the rating can be shown in different ways, for instance as the star diagram below (the values are randomly assigned for the purpose of illustration). This rendering gives a quick overview of how the various abilities were rated, and is particularly useful for comparing repeated ratings, as when following a development (change in policy, use of new tools, change in staffing, etc.)

Resilience rating system

The Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM)

Whereas commonly used methods explain events by interpreting them in terms of an already existing model, the FRAM is used to model the functions that are needed for everyday performance to succeed. This model can then be used to explain specific events, by showing how functions can be coupled and how the variability of everyday performance sometimes may lead to unexpected and out-of-scale outcomes - either good or bad.

As the FRAM is a method rather than a model, it makes no assumptions about how the system under investigation is structured or organised, nor about possible causes and cause-effect relations. Instead of looking for failures and malfunctions, the FRAM explains outcomes in terms of how functions become coupled and how everyday performance variability may resonate.

FRAM as a risk assessment method has been applied by PhD student Camilla K Tveiten. The result of this study can be found in the book "Oil and Gas, Technology and Humans" written in the RIO-project, see also figure below

Instantiation of a FRAM model of a planning phase of a modification project.



Resilience-based risk assessment 

In the associated reserach project "Interdisciplinary Risk Assessment in Integrated Operations" it has been elaborated and demonstrated how resilience can be applied in risk assessments. The main idea is to make use of the four abilities of resilience engineering to generate new knowledge that can be structured and analysed in a risk assessment framework.

In a chapter in the book "Oil and Gas, Technology and Humans" it is shown what questions that might be asked to get information about resilient processes and structures as input to risk assessments.

In another paper published in phase 1 of the IO center, Stig Ole Johnsen discuss the use of resilience in operative risk assessment methods (HAZOP, PHA, FMECA) by focusing ong the ability to manage margins close to performance boundaries; redundancy; establihment and exploration of common mental models; flexibility in systems and organisation; reduction of complexity; and reduction of couplings.


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