Incident Command Skills in the Management of an Oil Industry Drilling Incident: a Case Study



The successful management of a complex, hazardous event in many domains demands a high level of incident command skills. In the oil and gas exploration and production industry, these skills were required by members of an Incident Management Team (IMT) established to respond the failure of a drilling riser in the Gulf of Mexico. When an incident occurs, members of an industrial IMT form an interdisciplinary, interdependent, but ad-hoc team. As actual experience of dealing with major incidents of this nature is relatively rare, IMT members have to rely on emergency exercises in training, along with existing domain-specific knowledge. Following a serious incident on an offshore drilling rig, semi-structured interviews with the on-shore strategic and tactical level IMT members (n=7) were conducted. These interviews have resulted in the identification and definition of incident command skills for members of an industrial IMT, namely decision making, situation awareness, communication, leadership, and teamwork, all of which can be affected by stress, as well as organisational factors that influenced the outcome of the incident. Limitations in current incident management training were identified, namely the need for specific incident command skills training. A framework is suggested around which specific incident command skills training can be structured. Key learnings from this case study are also presented which can provide guidance for the training and preparation of industrial incident management teams.