Centre researchers are investigating pipeline safety issues and the impact of third-party organisations (outside the pipeline industry), and have presented their research at two major industry events.
Dr Vanessa McDermott presented a paper co-authored with Associate Professor Jan Hayes at the 11th Annual Energy Pipelines Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Research Seminar in June.
In October, Dr McDermott also presented the paper at the annual Australian Pipeline and Gas Association convention, a major event attracting national and international industry representatives.
Titled ‘What is Risk? Third party motivations to reduce the potential for pipeline strike’, the paper outlines findings from an Energy Pipelines CRC project.
The project explored the risk perceptions of a non-pipeline industry organisation involved in work near high-pressure gas transmission pipelines.
McDermott noted that despite awareness of the risk of pipeline damage, the organisation tended to see this as primarily a business risk, contributing to organisational ‘risk shifting’.
This meant that the organisation, prioritising an ambitious project schedule, passed on the responsibility for managing the potential of a catastrophic pipeline rupture to sub-contractors.
This responsibility included mandatory compliance with work procedures stipulated by top management in the organisation.
The research found that compliance-heavy approaches can mean that adherence to procedures becomes a substitute for safety, rather than the means to achieve a goal.
In some cases, this means that it is not possible to follow the imposed rules and also meet other critical business objectives.
This is particularly because it is the people at the bottom of the contracting chain who carry uncertainty surrounding the cost of compliance.
Evidence to date suggests that small contractors have a significant incentive to work quickly in the interest of their business and may neglect their personal safety and public safety to do so.
This issue will be investigated in more detail in the next phase of the research.