Design management


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Reviews of design projects were carried out by three teams of OSD inspectors from a spread of topic backgrounds. A cross section of project and operator company staff were interviewed, ranging from UK managing director to contractor discipline engineers.

This guidance, derived from experience gained from the reviews, explains those practices that are considered to have a significant effect on the ultimate safety of the completed installation during its life cycle and sets out OSD's initial expectations of effective performance in these areas.

The information has been collated under a series of headings which relate to the various roles and responsibilities of staff and the phases of the project. Within these headings, they are grouped to reflect their relevance to the six primary elements of successful health and safety management (HS)(G65).

Corporate management

To be successful the drive for continuous safety improvement and inherently safer design must stem from the very top of the duty holder's organisation. This is because inherently safer installations may require larger up front capital investment, although the consequent reduction in the need to operate and maintain a wider range of mitigation measures over the life of the plant may reduce the overall life cycle costs.

Therefore, in inspecting design and construction projects, the key indicator for corporate management is:

Corporate commitment to continuous safety improvement and inherently safer design.

The commitment and practices of corporate management, which are considered to have significant or beneficial impact on safety, include:


Declaration of company values with respect to continuous health and safety improvement and inherent safety, and of the means to achieve them, including willingness to commit CAPEX.


Field development procedures that require explicit safety evaluation and a commitment to take positive and transparent notice of the results.

Planning and implementing

  • The corporate setting and monitoring of measurable project health and safety goals at each project phase, and over the total life cycle of the installation.
  • Effective integration of health and safety issues with environmental and business considerations.

Measuring performance

Project sanction conditional on effective consideration of inherent safety and assessment against other measurable health and safety goals.

Reviewing performance

Independent review of project proposals against predetermined values and procedures that include safety considerations.

Conceptual design

At this stage, the fundamental level of inherent safety and operability of an installation is established. The processes and organisation established for this task are therefore critical. It is particularly important that the true full life costs and associated safety risks of options are considered, as CAPEX-only costing can mitigate against some basic inherently safer design objectives. Sufficient attention should be paid to detail at the FEED stage to ensure consistency with this safety philosophy is maintained during detailed design.

The key indicator for conceptual design is therefore:

Project management commitment to selecting and defining a concept that will meet both the health and safety and financial goals set at corporate level.

The conceptual design practices which are considered to have significant or beneficial impact on safety include:


  • Utilisation of staff with experience in front end definition of projects utilising the concepts under consideration.
  • Full life cycle costings and safety assessment used in an option ranking process to enumerate the benefits of inherently safer design.
  • Selection based on the consideration and ranking of a wide range of options with transparent safety criteria, including the application of inherently safer design principles.
  • Operational involvement, to ensure that operational considerations are addressed.

Existing designs with accepted safety cases subjected to the above processes to ensure that there are no significant differences from the earlier field parameters, prior to adoption for a new field development.

Planning and implementation

  • Realistic project time scales, to allow design iteration at both conceptual and detailed design stages as described in the Oil & Gas UK guidance on fire and explosion hazard management, with extra time allowed for novel concepts.
  • Health and safety objectives clearly stated and included within the concept selection procedure.
  • Establishment of high level safety critical elements (SCEs) and planning for verification at FEED stage.
  • Production of an unambiguous Basis of Design (BoD) for Project Sanction.

Development of a plan for HSE involvement at the appropriate level during each stage of the project.

Project management

The project culture is set by the project manager. A different skills base is appropriate to the post sanction execution phase, and it can be beneficial to have a change of manager once sanction is granted.

OSD's studies have shown that improved performance occurs when staffing levels are sufficient to prevent work overload, and time scales set are realistic.

The key performance indicator for the project execution phase is:

Appointment of an experienced and competent project manager and team with appropriate resources and realistic implementation programme.

The project management practices which are considered to have significant or beneficial impact on safety include:


  • Demonstrable competence of project manager and key staff for all project phases.
  • Where projects are "fast-track", or subject to any critical time limits, the means to ensure standards are not compromised should be described and implemented.
  • No Blame culture - credit for solutions to setbacks
  • Key contractors staff individually selected
  • Inclusion of experienced construction, installation and operational personnel.


  • Adequate staffing levels with clearly defined responsibilities
  • The operational needs of third parties, such as other future field tie backs, should be clearly established.
  • Effective team building measures, especially with contractors and other alliance staff.
  • Procedure for incorporating past lessons learnt (see project review section).
  • Lead engineers to have appropriate job descriptions and team management skills, with training where necessary
  • Regular liaison between operator and contractor at senior level (eg use of directors/VPs as project sponsors)

Planning and implementation

  • Effective planning and change control procedures
  • Careful monitoring and control of interfaces.
  • A safety review plan that demonstrates clear awareness of the health and safety risks of the project, and of the means of measuring and controlling them.
  • Use of senior and experienced trouble shooter.
  • Clear and well-disseminated goals for the objectives, content and timing of the design safety case.
  • Standards and procedures for implementing the high-level health and safety objectives set by corporate management at the project sanction stage.

Measuring performance

  • Regular progress monitoring, with means to deal with delays without compromising health and safety or overloading personnel.
  • Regular feedback and interface meetings at all levels.
  • Key performance indicators for staff - to include a safety remit.

Audit and review

Use of formal audit programme involving all stakeholders, including suppliers and constructors.

Detailed design

It is during the detail design phase that the safety goals and concepts incorporated in the BoD will be realised or lost. The high level performance standards of the SCEs will require to be translated into hardware specifications that will deliver the required performance throughout the life cycle of the installation.

This process requires careful and methodical work, well co-ordinated and subject to effective cross checking and validation. The management of interfaces both between disciplines within the team, and with other related projects or facilities is vital.

The key performance indicator for the detailed design phase is:

Competent engineering and design staff working to unambiguous procedures with effective cross discipline co-ordination, and understanding of risk reduction measures.

The commitment and practices for detailed design which are considered to have significant or beneficial impact on safety include:


  • Review and buy-in to Basis of Design (BoD).
  • Good definition of all operational requirements at the FEED stage.
  • Encouragement to raise pro-active safety improvement ideas
  • Clearly defined codes and standards for design and construction together with the assumptions justifying their selection.
  • Human factors focal point, with access to human factors and ergonomic specialists.
  • Whole life considerations in specification of equipment.
  • Promoting constructability by including construction specialists in the design team to carry out a continuous constructability assessment (including safety considerations) during the design phase.
  • Engineering focus on key deliverables such as process flow diagrams (PFDs) and safety integrity level (SIL) assessments.


Continuous cross fertilisation between safety engineering and other discipline departments.

Planning and implementation

  • Effective informal liaison between operator and contractor personnel (eg by co-location in contractor's offices).
  • Effective inter disciplinary check (IDC) system.
  • Effective change control procedure with adequate provision for re - HAZOP.
  • Effective and transparent safety concerns register and close out procedure.
  • Procedures and integrated plans for formal undertaking of timely HAZOPs, HAZIDs and (SIL) assessments and other safety and design reviews, with competent staffing.
  • Frequent dialogue with suppliers to encourage, and assist in, early solutions to procurement problems
  • Use of open workshops and seminars on incorporating construction and commissioning health and safety into design.

Effective and timely implementation of verification scheme to ensure that there is adequate opportunity for proper correction of any design and construction errors revealed.

Project monitoring and review

Data collected during the design phase can be fed back immediately to improve the process as it progresses. This can be achieved by independent review of progress against the design objectives. Also, as the project nears completion, the design teams start to fragment and disperse. Unless specific measures exist to review how well the project went, much of the learning experience may be lost. This process needs to start early in the project and continue throughout, rather than wait to the end, when personnel start to move away and interest switches to future work.

The key performance indicator for monitoring and review is:

Measures in place to collect and make effective use of data on project progress and review lessons learned for future projects.

Project monitoring and review practices which are considered to have significant or beneficial impact on safety include:

  • Use of consultants to monitor design performance during the project, to include health and safety aspects.
  • Appointment of a "lessons learned co-coordinator" to ensure capture of good and bad experiences by operator and contractor throughout the project, and from previous projects.
  • Formal auditing by senior management to assess the performance of the project to include the realisation of health and safety objectives.
  • Production and wide dissemination of a project review/lessons learned document.
  • Use of company wide data bases by contractors and operators to store generic lessons learned.


The effective monitoring of the construction and commissioning phase is important both for occupational health and safety and for ensuring that the design intent is achieved.

The key performance indicator for the construction phase is:

Implementation of an effective management system for the control of construction and commissioning health and safety risks, onshore and offshore, which is fully integrated with the design process.

The practices which are considered to have significant or a beneficial impact on safety include:


  • inclusion of evaluation of contractor's past health and safety performance and current SMS arrangements in the tender assessment criteria.
  • Minimisation of offshore work, particularly hazardous operations such as hot work.

Planning and implementation

  • Site visits by engineers and designers.
  • Requirements for witnessing, testing and independent verification, identified as part of the commissioning procedures.

Way forward

With the increased emphasis across HSE on improving safety by design, it is hoped that this SPC will enable OSD to more effectively and consistently influence project teams to achieve higher levels of health and safety for new projects and modifications to existing installations.

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Updated 2020-12-08