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SEQual – asking about your human factors policies

Monday, August 8, 2022

If, as a supplier, you want to work in Aberdeen with operators including Shell, BP, and Harbour Energy, you need to answer questions about your human factors policies as part of your SEQual 'pre-assessment'

SEQual, a supplier pre-qualification scheme based in Aberdeen, is asking suppliers to fill in a questionnaire about their human factors policies.

The human factors section of the questionnaire begins with the question, "Are you applying human factors / human performance as per the industry guidance,' said Dr Marcin Nazaruk, speaking at a Step Change in Safety webinar.

Dr Nazaruk is co-chair of the Aberdeen based Human Factors working group of the Step Change in Safety organisation, and chair of the Society of Petroleum Engineers Human Factors Technical Section.

The 'industry guidance' referred to is a free guidance document published by the SPE Human Factors Technical Section, which can be downloaded at https://spehfts.org/hf-per-industry-guidance

There are 7 human factors questions in the SEQual questionnaire, within the HSE section. They cover demonstrating and integrating practical application of human factors.

The first question companies are asked is if they have a documented human factors / human performance policy - and if it is integrated with other policies.

In the questionnaire, companies will be asked if their risk assessment process and training covers error traps in addition to hazards. Also, if the error traps identification is integrated into your company forms and templates.

A human factors policy 'is not an attitude or a communication campaign, it is a set of tools which needs to be integrated with your policies,' Dr Nazaruk said.

The human factors policy includes operating procedures, your incident investigation, risk investigation, proactive learning (looking for factors which increase the likelihood of human error), behavioural safety, consequence management (or the 'just culture') and demonstrating accountability.



Background to SEQual

SEQual is a supplier 'prequalification scheme', where suppliers are asked to fill in a questionnaire, with the results made available to buyers. SEQual launched in May 2021.

The idea is that suppliers only need to provide the information once, rather than provide it multiple times to different potential customers.

So, although it may take a long time to fill in the form, once it is done, they do not need to provide the information again, only provide updates or answer new sets of questions.

The SEQual project team found there was a lot of commonalities between questions being asked by different companies, and harmonised the questions.

The term 'pre-qualification' is used because it is for checks which buyers want to make before deciding about which supplier to use - it qualifies them to be considered.

SEQual buyers, who require a SEQual submission from any supplier before considering giving them new business, include Apache, BP, CNOOC, Harbour Energy, Neptune Energy, Repsol, Serica, Spirit Energy, Shell and TAQA.

Suppliers currently under a contract with an oil and gas operator do not need to qualify in order to continue under their contract, but they may need it when they renew the contract. Customers may also look at the data when doing a performance review.

There is also another similar procurement service FPAL - although the SEQual buyers are committed to using SEQual exclusively, and buyers are free to choose which service they use, said Sakthi Norton, SEQual scheme manager.

SEQual is an industry owned scheme (not profit making), operated by an organisation called LOGIC (see www.logic-oil.com), which is a subsidiary of industry association Offshore Energies UK.

SEQual is reviewing the questions every year. It is also developing a tool to gather and store feedback, and for suppliers to pose questions to buyers.

'As we continue to operate SEQual we know we'll always be open to feedback and will adjust how we implement the criteria, so it is working for buyers and suppliers,' she said.



Questions

All the questions and assessment criteria have been written by SEQual buyers, many of them based on the questions they were using before the scheme was set up.

There is a structure to questions, where the previous response determines the next question.

A lot of questions might start with asking if you have a 'documented policy / procedure' for something, such as a documented human factors policy. If you answer yes, you are directed to upload the document; if no, you are asked to state how you manage that element.

'Not every company may have fully structured documents / procedures for everything,' she said. 'It doesn't mean you don't practise these things. It doesn't [necessarily] matter whether you've written it into a document, or it is communicated more directly in the company. We want to see what it is you do.'

'Some other questions ask, 'do you do something'. 'Do you have a behaviour-based safety program'. If 'yes', please tell us what you do. If 'no' that's the end of the question flow.'

The workload to complete the questionnaire is estimated to be between 1 and 6 weeks.

'There are 3 very large question sets, there is a lot of detail we are asking for. Buyers are looking for a high level of assurance,' she said. 'We encourage suppliers to take the time you need to complete it to a good standard.'

Once this is done, the work should just involve updating things which have changed or adding new documents or renewed documents.

'It's a big job the first time, but it will save you time and effort not having to input that same information time and time again,' she said.



Assessment

Suppliers can be assessed with a desktop assessment or an onsite assessment, with onsite assessment only required if some aspects of the suppliers' response are deemed high risk.

The desktop assessment may involve answering some further questions from an assessment team.

The assessment team want to ensure that documents / descriptions supplied relate to the question, and cover specific points it is looking for, in documented policies, procedures, or descriptions about how things are managed.

'It doesn't matter how you've written it up or how you capture it. The key criteria assessors are looking for is what you do,' she said.

The assessment also looks at document dates - when they were issued and last reviewed, with most documents needing to be dated within the last 2 or 3 years, to show there is a continual process of reviewing them.

While buyers will initially be looking for 'compliance', that you have everything the questionnaires ask for, it is valid to say 'no' to a question, and a buyer will then make their own decision about what to do.

Two of the assessment companies are Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance Limited and Bureau Veritas Certification UK.

The assessors' criteria is determined by technical experts working for the buying companies, such as their internal health and safety teams.

While the costs of the assessments themselves are met through the SEQual scheme by the buyer community, a scheme administration fee of £480 + VAT is charged to suppliers for each assessment.

Finally, a supplier gets a 'status of compliance' and becomes visible to buyers.

When companies are considered 'compliant', it should mean 'buyers can feel comfortable that they are able to work with you, and their baseline requirements are covered,' Ms Norton said.




Associated Companies
» Apache North Sea Ltd
» BP
» Neptune Energy Group
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