The role of Human Factors, in complex environments like the oil and gas industry, has seen a paradigm shift over a very short span of time recently. Past studies have limited focus on the human system interfacial approach. However, the repeated failures have forced the industry and academia to take a closer look at the cascading failures with human errors perspective and conduct the root-cause analysis from the cognitive aspect. Traditionally, the knowledge, expertize, and competence took the driving seat while the human factors had been on the back burner. Lack of emphasis on Human Factors in academic research could be another reason for this laxity. Consideration of human factors in the design of systems is centered on the end user. Systems are designed to fit the physiological limitations of the people tasked with managing them. The design includes features that improve comfort and productivity, minimize errors, and minimize training time.

In this paper, first a review of crucial human factors in different well cycles such as drilling, well completion, fracturing, and abandonment will be presented. Through various cases studies, it will be shown that potential challenges can be mitigated with proper implementation of various elements for human factors such as situational awareness, team working, stress management and other non-technical skills. In addition, this paper reviews the critical components and perceived gaps of existing safety management systems in use as well as those elements that would be of most value to drilling taken from other sectors or industries on a ‘first principles’ basis. The paper attempts to highlight ’the myths, misconceptions, and realities of complex well operations’ that either deter changes or demand a new approach. It is the authors premise that if either a ‘clean sheet’ approach or more ‘actual cost’ weight was given to both common problems and low probability high consequence events such as kicks or loss of well control.

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