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Elevate Your Undestanding

To Maintain Safety it is Necessary to Properly Transition Safety-Critical Roles

Keeping people, processes, and the environment safe during facility changes is important to most companies and is a central part of every process and pipeline safety management program. This is true not only for asset changes but also for changes to personnel.

Changes in job responsibilities, loss of key personnel, and even changes in shift hours can lead to serious incidents with potentially severe consequences. It is during these kinds of changes that impacts are felt not only immediately but long after the changes are completed. These impacts can introduce new risks and expose latent ones leaving companies at risk and vulnerable.

Ensuring the continuity of safety-critical roles during personnel changes will help eliminate gaps in your safety program so that incidents do not occur. Unfortunately, many companies either do not track or are even aware of which roles are safety-critical. When this information is missing from job descriptions it is not possible for management to know if and when gaps are created as people move in and out of roles.

Even when this information exists, it is common to find gaps between the formal, documented requirements for a position, and the activities actually performed by the person currently in the role. To ensure that each personnel change comprehensively covers the duties and responsibilities, it is helpful to conduct interviews with both the out-going and in-coming person as part of the change process.

For each personnel change it is important to:

  • Document critical knowledge from the out-going person

  • Understand the risks that are being managed by the role

  • Reassign existing tasks and assignments

  • Account for all other duties and responsibilities

  • Ensure that the incoming person has the appropriate skills and competencies

During personnel changes it is crucial to give appropriate attention to the transition of the incoming person when additional training may be required and critical safety tasks can get overlooked.

It may be necessary to have the out-going person (if possible) temporarily cover critical tasks until the incoming person has obtained proper training and competency.

New positions can present additional challenges as they can sometimes lack detailed job descriptions necessary for a person to properly transition into the role. In these cases, it is important to track the progression of the role description from the time when the person is first installed into the position and then again when the position has been finalized.

Continuity of safety-critical roles is essential to maintain safety programs. This starts with identifying which roles are critical and then making sure that they are properly transitioned as people move in and out of them.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Questions:

  1. How does your company ensure that safety-critical roles are properly transitioned during personnel changes?

  2. How are risks identified and managed while transitions are occurring?

  3. What steps can be taken to improve the continuity of safety-critical roles during personnel changes?

  4. Which step can you start today?


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