Safety Management & the Five Pitfalls that Lead to Accidents



The Energy industry, particularly the pipeline industry, operates around hazardous situations at all times. If an accident occurs, it can have a serious impact not just on the workers on-site but the local communities.

The Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill is just one example of serious accidents throughout the years. That accident resulted in 11 fatalities and 17 serious injuries at the platform. But beyond the affected site, dozens of families were affected, a large southern community was affected. The rig operator and all the providers of equipment and services associated with the event were affected. Impacts manifested as health issues, environmental issues, economic issues, regulatory issues, among others. It was a serious event, and the ramifications are still felt today both by BP and the community.

How can the energy and utility industries prevent these types of accidents? Here, we explain how in a two-part blog series based on the practical experiences of our Subject Matter Experts.

You can also watch it on “What’s in the Pipe?”.


Safety management is a systemic approach to safety that involves organizational structures, policies and procedures, among other factors. If done right and followed accordingly, a safety management system can help prevent many of the pitfalls that challenge the energy and utility industries.

API RP 1173 is a pipeline safety management system released by the American Petroleum Institute. There are 10 essential elements of this management system:

  1. Leadership and Management Commitment
  2. Stakeholder Engagement
  3. Risk Management
  4. Operational Controls
  5. Incident Investigation, Evaluation and Lessons Learned
  6. Safety Assurance
  7. Management Review and Continuous Improvement
  8. Emergency Preparedness and Response
  9. Competence, Awareness and Training
  10. Documentation and Record Keeping



Of these ten elements, there are five that are key to a successful implementation of a Safety Management System:

  1. Leadership Say:Do Ratio. Leadership sets the tone not only by what it says but by what it does. Everyone looks up to leadership for examples and replicate what they hear and see.
  2. Personnel training & competencies. Training must be adequate and relevant, and organizations need to make sure workers’ competencies are accurately aligned to their job duties.
  3. Policies & procedures. As mentioned above, this is critical to any safety management system. Not only will it document corporate memory, but it outlines absolutely everything about the company: who, what, where, when, and why.
  4. Management of change. An organization must consider closely what changes are needed and assess and address the ramifications of those changes. There must be a process to review, continuously improve, and efficiently implement change.
  5. Emergency Preparedness and Response. A good emergency response system in place helps you respond faster if an incident occurs. By responding faster, you may be able to reduce the effects of the incident.



From experience analyzing the causes of high profile accidents, there are five pitfalls companies fall into that can lead to serious events. These pitfalls should be avoided systematically and proactively is an organization wants to prevent accidents from happening.


  1. No system to quantify risk. When there is no system in place to effectively identify, assess, and prioritize risks, then improper allocation of time and resources may result in high risk areas not being addressed with the required priority. Organizations must be able to identify the hazards, understand the risks, and quantify those risks so the best data-driven decisions can be taken to mitigate risk.
  2. Unclear systems & procedures.Accidents can happen over and over again because organizations often times have no memory and in some cases established processes are not clear enough to deal with the potential risks.  Establishing and maintaining a good, clear set of standards and policies helps document corporate memory so accidents do not happen over again.
  3. Lack of a strong safety culture. Without a strong culture of safety, lax standards and subsequent complacency with the status quo can take over. When this happens, accidents happen. Instituting a strong safety culture is vital to prevention and reduction of risk and helps overall safety maintenance. A strong culture starts from the top and permeates the organization across and around, it should become the “way people work”.
  4. Failure to learn from prior events. When an accident happens and you fail to assess and address the matter and then memorialize the findings in clear systems and procedures, then accidents can reoccur. Learning and embedding prior event learnings, once it is decided it is worth capturing, must be a part of a strong safety-focused process.
  5. Too much focus on personal safety. When all the focus is on personal safety, process safety is often times ignored, and that’s a pitfall that can lead to accidents. Process safety focuses on not only the well-being of the people carrying out the tasks, but the safety of the infrastructure, procedures and tools to carry out those tasks.

A strong safety management system can help you avoid these pitfalls.

Some may wonder what is the difference between safety management and risk management – isn’t a risk management system enough? Learn more about it in the next blog, or contact G2 Integrated Solutions to learn more today.