Workplace hazards are plentiful and we're faced with a range of them every day, from chemical and biological to physical, ergonomic and psychosocial. We are now faced with a new challenge that we all share; stopping the spread of the global COVID19 pandemic.
However, whilst we try to stop the spread of the virus through the implementation of travel restrictions and social distancing, there are consequences for project schedules and budgets as meetings and workshops are cancelled or delayed. Operating sites are also changing operational arrangements in response to the virus, with a potential impact on their operational risk profile - which in turn demands rapid and responsive risk assessment to help ensure risks are properly managed.
As well as being crucial to mitigating safety and environmental risks, Hazard Identification (HAZID) and Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) studies are often on the critical path for project execution. Whilst historically many professionals rely on these being held face to face, often with up to 40 delegates, the good news is, they can be conducted to full effect, remotely.
The strategies to success for conducting remote HAZID and HAZOP studies highlight three key factors - preparation for the study and managing a large virtual meeting, plus having the appropriate enabling technology.
- Timing: online meetings require a lot of individual concentration: aim for a maximum meeting duration of 5 hours per day including breaks
- Terms of Reference: issue a clear Terms of Reference well in advance - everyone should understand the objectives of the workshop and the process to be followed
- Expectations of team members: everyone at the workshop should have familiarised themselves with the project - and the input required of them - before the meeting
- Testing: invest in a pre-meeting to make sure that the meeting process is understood and that the technology works as expected
- Meeting Management
- Joining the meeting: It is best if each team member signs in as an individual; this reduces side conversations in the group and makes directing the meeting much easier
- Visibility: Use a software application that makes it clear who is speaking
- Required inputs: it is not straightforward to mirror a physical meeting - video of all team members, sharing of engineering drawings, and sharing of the study minutes cannot easily be achieved at the same time. We focus on sharing the documents and rely on the facilitator to ensure all team members contribute
- Hardware: a large monitor makes it easier to see drawings, and the better sound quality of a headset helps encourage participation
- Application software: there are many options, none of them perfect. Good preparation and facilitation by an experienced on-line leader help you get the most from this type of study
The facilitator needs to work harder to make sure team members contribute, but at LR we've conducted many studies remotely and have proven it is an effective way to bring together international project teams. Despite the trepidation, online meetings can create a level playing field for discussion when well managed and the output is of the same detail and quality. There's no doubt that this remote way of working will be adopted even when a "new normal" arises; the savings in travel cost can be substantial and it is much more time efficient.