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Probing human factors for safer, more sustainable oil and gas operations

Published: 10 October 2019

  • Focus on culture and workforce challenges is critical to ensuring best practice in managing risks to operational sustainability, in all its aspects
  • Performance data and benchmarking can help to assess, improve, and establish maturity for the health and wellbeing of a company
  • DNV GL’s International Sustainability Rating System creates transparency on how business processes impact on key operational criteria

Increasing regulation and societal pressure are leading companies in process industries, including oil and gas, to benchmark the quality of their management systems against international best practice and performance. 

Many such systems already target zero carbon emissions to mitigate global warming; zero accidents; zero waste; and, zero use of non-renewable materials. Companies continuously watch out for actual or potential categories of loss (e.g. oil and gas leaks), analyse the causes, and put in place systems to reduce or eliminate loss. Comparing their management systems with others locally and internationally can help to identify gaps and take measures to close them.

These external drivers and consequent company needs are behind the increasing interest that DNV GL is seeing in its International Sustainability Rating System. Known simply as ISRS, it provides in-depth scrutiny and guidance of management systems. It assists organizations to implement a truly sustainable business with zero adverse impacts.

The ninth edition (ISRS9) published in 2019 brings a broader view of loss categories and concepts that can apply across varied sectors. The additional risk categories include some that are relatively or entirely new to particular industries. One example is cyber security, as corporate operational and information technologies become more connected with each other and the internet.

How ISRS works

As a systematic, qualitative method for ranking management system performance against that of other organizations, ISRS can complement quantitative risk assessment techniques. Organizations use it to assess, improve, and demonstrate performance for 10 loss categories, such as occupational health and safety, process safety, and environment. They aim to achieve progressively higher levels (ranked from 1 to 10) of management system maturity and performance.

Performance is measured by assessing how much work is done by the organization in: identifying risks; implementing and managing risk controls; investigating the causes of loss (e.g. human error, and failure of equipment and materials); and, how it measures and analyses consequences such as incidents, injuries, and losses.

Khemissi Benaroua, HSE superintendent with Indonesian oil and gas company Pertamina, says implementing ISRS is improving the sustainability culture and performance in the company’s Algerian operations. (Video 1)

Evolving safety risk management

In a fast-evolving regulatory and technological landscape, which now includes increasing use of digital equipment, data, and data analytics, no benchmarking system for managing health, safety, environment and quality (HSEQ) can stand still.

ISRS was itself developed in 1978 and has been implemented at thousands of sites worldwide. DNV GL continually updates it in collaboration with customers to maintain the system's relevance. The ninth edition provides updated standards and scope, new management system aspects, more efficient business processes, and novel and enhanced software tools. Added loss categories include, among others, asset integrity, security and information security, knowledge management and energy management.

Janneco Pothuis, cluster manager HSE with plastic pipe system and solution provider Wavin, says the method has brought structure to its journey towards health and safety certification. (Video 2)

Digitalization creates opportunities for better HSEQ management

Digital advances are creating new opportunities for companies to improve HSEQ management. Recognizing this, ISRS9 includes a new app to enhance incident reporting, and to streamline and speed up investigations. “Improved digital benchmarking services and new dashboards are incorporated for greater efficiency. They add to the customer experience and interaction,” said Selva Subramaniam, senior consultant and head of ISRS Product Centre at DNV GL.

The enhancements in ISRS9 also reflect feedback from customers such as Indian pharmaceuticals multinational Lupin Limited, which has been using ISRS since 2011. Kaushik Samanta, vice president (Corporate EHS) at Lupin, says the system helps to address a highly regulated industry’s need to demonstrate the performance of its safety and sustainability management. (Video 3)

Further reading

  Read more about the International Sustainability Rating System

Read more about the International Sustainability Rating System

  Chinese chemical plants and refiners raise the bar on HSEQ

Chinese chemical plants and refiners raise the bar on HSEQ

  Guideline shows how to make oil and gas industry cyber secure

Guideline shows how to make oil and gas industry cyber secure


DNV prides itself on providing accurate information but makes no claims or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of contents in this publication, and disclaims liability for any errors or omissions. The authors’ views here do not necessarily reflect DNV’s views.