Adressing the Shift Handover Knowledge Gap with Electronic Logbooks

eVision Product Manager Sie-Hang Cheung on getting “on the same page” across shifts, using innovative tools to support the shift logging and handover process.

Safety incidents arise from three fault lines: human, process and plant error. Human error is an inevitable by-product of the complex and massive processes that underpin hazardous operations. Plant operators experience information overload. Meanwhile, overgrown processes scatter information confusingly across several, disconnected data silos. Coupled with ageing assets that weaken the integrity of the plant, it is difficult for operators to keep up with everything that is happening within the plant. Especially during the shift handover. In recent years, inadequate shift handovers have been the cause for major incidents across multiple industries, with some estimates as high as every second incident.

Fast shift handovers

Because the handover is quick—accounting for less than five percent of operations staff time—operators might not always be able to give it the importance it deserves. In the small amount of time that is available to them to perform handovers, a transparent and easy-to-use system is needed to provide everyone a view of what is important and relevant for them.

And while this process only takes a fraction of the operations staff’s time, the results could have a huge impact on the people around them and on the environment if not done properly.

Analysis of accidents and incidents shows that human failure contributes to almost all accidents and exposures to substances hazardous to health. In order to avoid accidents, measures for human failure must be as robust as those for technical and engineering measures. The solution to this challenge is for companies to reduce risk related to human-error by leveraging robust systems that are structured and leverage the power of integrations.

Introduce structure

A structured, electronic logbook can manage information overload and help prevent incidents that arise from human error during the shift handover. As risk-factors are identified and shared across teams, the result is better safety on site.

And with safety comes efficiency. Using an electronic logbook enables the team to disseminate more information within the extremely short handover timeframe than unstructured methods can. The team can then quickly get to work, putting the handover information to use in the field.

A 2011 Honeywell experiment found that nine percent more second shift operators on teams that conducted a handover with a structured logbook could accurately describe the plant situation than those from teams with an unstructured handover. Capturing field incidents and rounds data electronically helped the operators take ownership of their work and develop good habits in recording relevant plant data.

More than serving as a tool for the shift handover, structured logbooks are a tool for the entire organisation to use, according to a 2008 IChemE report. These logbooks are one step up from the flat spreadsheets or simple databases that some shift teams use.

Across the organisation, data systems already capture valuable information on production, reliability and environmental performance. The structured logbook efficiently files away these data streams alongside the shift team’s daily notes in a database so that everyone across the organisation can easily extract and leverage them.

Leverage integrations

Operators from the site as well as the rest of the organisation’s various plant data sources can feed into the structured logbook, while accommodating workflows like operator rounds and others, to improve consistency in the data capture. Operators can fill in structured forms while they complete their line walks. Integrations from multiple data sources enhances handovers and reporting.

Consequently, structured logbooks have the potential to become the operation team’s central information hub, pulling plant information from scattered data systems into one place. They can pull data out of and receive information from various external data systems, including digital Control of Work systems, plant historians, alarm systems, DCS and SCADA systems and incident management systems, all of which strengthen knowledge transfer during the team’s very brief shift handovers. 

Logbook ownership

The entire shift team relies on the note-taker’s accuracy to understand the as-is situation in the field. This reliance underscores logbook ownership and makes the operators likely to take great care in recording their notes as well as taking their notes’ content into account when performing their own tasks.

People have the most direct impact on safety success or failure in the field. With the right tool and a structured approach during the shift handover, they can also become the best force for safety and efficiency.

Overall, weak and inconsistent shift handover tools and processes not only have the potential to lead to catastrophic incidents due to human errors, they also take up too much time during time-critical handovers. A digital, integrated and structured shift handover tool brings essential operational safety, excellence and performance benefits not only to Operators, but to entire organisations, as data is accessible and up to date always and everywhere.

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