Data will save lives

On April 28, colleagues onshore and offshore gathered to support the first ever Group-wide Global Safety Day. At Maersk Drilling, the Project Zero team is exploring how data and other methods can be used to advance safety performance and prevent accidents before they occur.

Mike Andres, the head of Project Zero: “We collect a tremendous amount of data across the fleet, but the majority is reactive and only tells a fragment of the story.” Photo: Peter Elmholt

Project Zero in Brief

Project Zero was initiated in February 2014 at the request of Maersk Drilling CEO Claus Hemmingsen. Reaching zero incidents is part of Maersk Drilling’s strategy of delivering a profit of USD 1 billion in 2018, while conducting incident-free operations.

The project’s key focus areas include:

  • Communication and collaboration, including all rig crew, third party and customer teams
  • Reviewing and modifying training approaches to fully empower offshore teams
  • Simplifying current processes and procedures to encourage compliance
  • Clarifying safety roles and responsibilities
  • Data-driven decision making: Identifying new metrics and correlations
  • Innovation: Developing game-changing tools, products and methodologies

Project Zero will continue through 2018 with the ambition to change the standard way of thinking and working in Maersk Drilling – so that a stand-alone project is no longer required.

Improving how Maersk Drilling gathers and uses data will save lives,” says Mike Andres, the head of Project Zero.

“We collect a tremendous amount of data across the fleet, but the majority is reactive and only tells a fragment of the story.

One of our biggest challenges is our current inability to understand the reasons behind our safety performance trending – both good and bad,” he adds.

In the past, Andres has assembled bikes for Toys ‘R Us, worked on the late-night cleaning crew at Burger King, loaded trucks in a lumberyard and even sold industrial chemicals door-to-door to work his way through university.

After 15 years of global experience within the Maersk Group, now as the head of Project Zero, his goal is clear: to make preventable accidents in the drilling industry a thing of the past.

Project Zero is focused on plumbing the data to find new correlations, trends and signals that will help identify potential safety issues before an incident occurs.

When people are fatigued, for example, their ability to understand complicated information decreases. A top priority for Maersk Drillings Project Zero team is therefore to simplify procedures offshore.

The team has, for example, found that a spike in general housekeeping issues offshore, such as a lack of tidiness or organisation, tends to precede an increase in safety incidents. The project is also examining the amount of time offshore managers spend conducting safety audits and coaching their teams to determine how management visibility and engagement on the rig affects safety performance.

Maersk Drilling launched Project Zero over a year ago as part of its 2018 strategy to deliver a USD 1 billion profit while simultaneously reducing its number of lost-time incidents to zero.

Human factors

Since 2000, the industry has hit a barrier when it comes to reaching zero incidents – something Andres calls the “sound barrier,” largely encompassing human factors.

“Humans are complicated, but we can take proactive measures to design drilling units, training, procedures and communication flows that work with the way the human brain naturally processes information to make decisions,” he says.

When people are fatigued, for example, their ability to understand complicated information decreases. A top priority for the team is therefore to simplify procedures offshore. Project Zero is working with the Ocean Energy Safety Institute and NASA to determine the best way to present highly technical procedures in easy-to-understand checklists.

In April, Lars Bagger Hviid, a psychologist and Human Factor Specialist with Project Zero, spent a week on the Maersk Valiant in the US Gulf of Mexico. He says he is always struck by how complex the offshore environment is, with multiple operations going on at once that potentially involve hundreds of people.

“There’s a huge focus on making sure things are working efficiently and safely. Simplifying procedures so they’re written as clear checklists instead of lengthy paragraphs is at least one of a number of ways we can make a difference to ensure an even safer operation,” he says.

Looking outside
Project Zero has reached out to external partners, including Vodafone, the Danish and US military and Atlas Air in order to find out what safety practices they can learn from each other.

The team is also examining other more radical ideas, for example research from the University of Aarhus into a portable device for monitoring individuals’ brainwave activity. Such a device could be placed in the hard hats worn by drilling workers in order to assess their level of fatigue or concentration.

While such advancements hold promise for the future, Andres remains focused on improving ­current practices.
“Maersk Drilling understands this is a long term journey that requires determination. In order to ensure we create sustainable change we’re going to spend enough time to make sure our house is in order first,” he says.