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Principles of Shift Changeover Process and Why it is Important

A Shift Handover is the process when one worker transfers his responsibility and authority to another. It’s a regular practice in manufacturing plants and other operations where workers work on an assigned shift.

Placing greater reliance on written communication between handover of 12-hour shifts

Shift handover – a definition

Where a production process or operation continues indefinitely, there inevitably comes a time when those personnel undertaking or overseeing the process or operation have to leave their duties and let others take their place. This is when “shift handover” takes place.

However, when that process or operation involves complex issues and/or hazardous substances, it’s crucial that all information appertaining to the period of the outgoing shift is conveyed to those who are taking over so that continuity can be maintained and safety upheld.

Shift handover typically includes:

  1. A period of time where the outgoing team prepares the information it will be conveying to the incoming team.
  2. A period of time where both the outgoing and incoming teams communicate with each other and exchange all relevant information.
  3. A period of time where the incoming team cross-checks the information passed onto it as it takes on the responsibility for ongoing operations.

The main aim of safe shift handover is to transfer accurate, reliable and relevant information from the outgoing shift team to the incoming shift team in order that there is continuity of safe and effective operations.

Shift handover – background

Oil and gas exploration and production processes are continuous 24-hour operations. The personnel who work on these operations and processes tend to work alternate 12-hour shifts over a 2-4 week period.

These operations tend to be highly complex and place demands on the operator’s skills as far as information processing and decision-making is concerned. Also, processes may evolve over many hours, or even days, and the ability of the operator to clearly understand what is going on, or what is expected, is critical. This mental appreciation of the situation is one of the more challenging issues when it comes to shift handover.

Successful control of an operation requires three elements:

  1. A clear understanding of the expected outcomes of the production process or operation.
  2. A clear understanding of the current state of the production process or operation.
  3. A clear understanding of the dynamics of the production process or operation.

As we’ve just mentioned, many processes evolve over a long period of time. Tasks undertaken to adjust a process may take hours or days to take effect. Consequently, good communication at shift handover on expected long term or delayed reactions is essential.

12-hour shift handover

In the 1970s, shift patterns in the oil and gas industry gradually changed from 8-hour to 12-hour shifts. The view at the time was that inter-shift communications improved because the number of handovers was reduced, which in essence meant the number of occasions when critical information might not have been passed over was effectively reduced. This awareness highlighted the fact that quality of handover was a significant issue and needed to be addressed.

Shortly after, a research based project was conducted at an oil refinery in the UK where personnel involved in process shift work were asked to set out exactly the kind of information they would need to have passed to them in order to undertake their work safely and effectively if they were the incoming shift workers.

Read also: Common Hazards and Risk Assessment in Oil and Gas Industry

Once this information was collated, it was used as a design template for a structured log book. The result was that this log book was used as a constant record of events and activities which occurred during a shift. At handover, it was used as a prompt to instigate conversations as to the information needed to be discussed between outgoing and incoming staff. It was generally accepted that talking through the log book afforded the handover process a more structured approach, giving greater continuity between shifts, more information being passed on, and key information being recorded in writing and discussed verbally.

Furthermore, the project involved conducting interviews with a wide range of experienced staff to establish effective handover procedures. The analysis of these interviews, together with the structured log book, led to a written procedure being established on how to conduct an effective shift handover.

One thing which did become apparent from the project was that handover should not be restricted to a limited time. Indeed, handover should take as long as necessary.

Case Study

Following the Piper Alpha disaster, the inquiry concluded that one of the main contributory factors to the disaster was a failure to convey critical information at shift handover. In particular, a pressure safety valve had been removed and had been replaced by a blind flange. The incoming shift, being unaware of this fact, took actions which to their mind were normal procedures but which actually triggered the disaster. The report which followed the inquiry concluded that there was no established procedure as to how shift handover should be conducted or what should be included.

Two-way communication at handover with both participants taking joint responsibility

During shift handover, the communication of information from one person to another is not just a one-way process. The person who is providing the information needs to convey it in a way such that the person who is receiving it is in no doubt about the message being conveyed.

It is a mutual interaction between the two people:

  • person A (the sender of the information),
  • and person B (the person receiving the information).

Person A needs to receive feedback from person B confirming that the information has been received and correctly interpreted in order for the twoway communication to be successful.

Studies of social interaction within small groups have provided some evidence that highlights the need for such feedback – it is evident that increased feedback is associated with increased accuracy and confidence in communication. The increase in feedback, however, does mean that more time needs to be allowed for in the communication process.

A recent theory on reliable communications emphasizes the role of feedback in accurate communication and also suggests a possible reason why, under certain conditions, shift handover may be problematic. The theory is based on an analysis of accidents and the concept of mental models (a mental model being the internal mental representation which is held by an individual). In the context of the oil and gas industry this could be the mental model of the installation that individual is responsible for operating.

According to this theory, two factors should be considered when assessing the reliability of communications:

  1. The mental models held by those persons communicating with each other. If those models are compatible, e. g. under normal plant conditions and between experienced operators or when both parties have been on duty for several consecutive shifts, then the handover will generally be unproblematic. This is because they both have a shared understanding of the information being conveyed.
    On the other hand, when the mental models are not compatible, e. g. under abnormal plant conditions and between experienced and inexperienced operators, or if there has been a significant break between shifts, then the shift handover could be problematic. This means that good communication is necessary to enable both mental models to become compatible.
  2. Feedback is the second factor essential for effective communication. Under normal circumstances when the mental models are compatible and there is a shared understanding of the information, feedback is not as essential because there is Risk Management Techniques used in the Oil and Gas Industriesless risk that information being conveyed will be misinterpreted.

Under abnormal conditions, feedback is more important to ensure effective communication as it allows:

  • the receiver of the information to confirm that he/she has received, interpreted and understood what has been communicated;
  • the sender to confirm that the information has been successfully communicated as well as giving him/her the opportunity to clarify any issues if necessary.

On conveyance of information, the receiver registers his/her understanding of the information.

On conveyance of understanding by the receiver, the sender knows that the receiver has registered and understands the sent information.

What shift handover should include

Why good shift handover is important

Good shift handover allows the accurate and effective communication of vital information to incoming personnel in order to enable the safe operation of process plant and equipment.

The aim of shift handover is to communicate effectively all relevant information to allow the continuation of safe and efficient systems and process operations. As we mentioned before, there are three elements which contribute to an effective shift handover:

  • A period of time where the outgoing team prepares the information it will be conveying to the incoming team.
  • A period of time where both the outgoing and incoming team communicate with each other and exchange all relevant information.
  • A period of time where the incoming team cross-checks the information passed onto it as it takes on the responsibility for ongoing operations.

A definition of an effective shift handover is:

The effective transfer of information between the outgoing and incoming parties with no miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Key principles in effective shift handover

Although the actual shift handover is between those ending their shift and those about to start their shift, management should also ensure that the facilities, the arrangements and the infrastructure allow for good shift handover practice. In effect, management should:

  • Provide all staff who are involved in the handover process with training and the development of good communication skills.
  • Provide written procedures for effective shift handover.
  • Emphasize the importance of effective shift handover.
  • Ensure that both parties take joint responsibility for conducting an effective shift handover.
  • Emphasize the use of both written and verbal means of communication.
  • Ensure that any important information is written into a log or report form. The log or report form should be brought to the attention of personnel at handover.
  • Include all personnel from both the incoming and outgoing team in the handover without exception.
  • Ensure that managers and supervisors are available at all times and implement an “open door” policy.

Shift handovers should involve the following principles:

  • Be treated as high priority.
  • Not be rushed but be allowed as much time and resources as is necessary to ensure the accurate communication of information.
  • Be conducted using both verbal and written means of communication.
  • Be conducted face to face, with both parties taking joint responsibility for the effective communication of necessary
    information.
  • Be conducted in an environment which is conducive to good communication without distractions.
  • Involve all shift personnel.

As far as the operation of the plant and equipment is concerned, issues covered should include:

  • Work permits – the status of existing permits and the status of work in progress.
  • The updating of work permits.
  • Preparations for upcoming maintenance.
  • New personnel to the shift.
  • Any plant overrides – existing and planned.
  • Information about any abnormal events.
  • Any existing or planned shutdowns.
  • Any changes in plant parameters.
  • Any routine operations and existing parameters which may need to be carried out by personnel from the incoming shift.
  • Any breakdowns which may have occurred.
  • Any faults which have occurred with safety critical equipment.
  • Inhibits to the Fire and Gas (F & G) and Emergency Shutdown (ESD) systems.
  • Any completed work and equipment which has returned to service.

REVISION QUESTIONS FOR ELEMENT 2 CONTINUED

Question 1: Outline what the process of shift handover involves.
Answer 1
The command word in this question is outline. This requires an answer which gives the most important features of a subject or issue. Your answer should expand on the following information:

A shift handover should include:

  • A period of time where the outgoing team prepares the information it will be conveying to the incoming team.
  • A period of time where both the outgoing and incoming team communicate with each other and exchange all relevant information.
  • A period of time where the incoming team cross-checks the information passed on to it as it takes on the responsibility for ongoing operations.
Question 2: Identify FOUR of the principles involved in a good shift handover process.
Answer 2
The command word in this question is identify. This requires an answer which selects and names a subject or issue. Your answer should include FOUR of the following suggested answers:

Shift handover should:

  • Be treated as high priority.
  • Not be rushed but be allowed as much time and resource as is necessary to ensure the accurate communication of information.
  • Be conducted using both verbal and written means of communication.
  • Be conducted face to face, with both parties taking joint responsibility for the effective communication of necessary information.
  • Be conducted in an environment which is conducive to good communication without distractions.
  • Involve all shift personnel.
Footnotes
Sea-Man

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Сентябрь, 09, 2022 95 0
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