Cognition, Technology & Work

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 285–295 | Cite as

Making drilling operations visible: the role of articulation work for organisational safety

  • Torgeir HaavikEmail author
Original Research


In the petroleum industry, new technologies and work processes are currently being developed as an innovation strategy for better, faster and safer drilling. In this article, some features of today’s work processes that contribute to successful operations are presented and discussed. The articulation work involved in handling the transient complexity of operations involves making black-boxed and invisible work processes visible and transparent. It is argued that this articulation work contributes to the organisation’s understanding and knowledge of the drilling processes and the dependencies that exist between different actors. In addition to contributing to ongoing problem solving, the articulation work also contributes to the awareness of possible future events. Following this insight, it is argued that efforts to improve operational efficiency and safety by introducing new tools and work processes should focus not only on the capability of new tools to support decisions and actions by instrumentation and automation, but attention should also be paid to the existing articulation work and its role in the accomplishment of work. In that way, the contributions of today’s articulation work can be strengthened instead of lost, and the outcome of the change processes can be even better than anticipated.


Invisible work Articulation work Cooperative work Safety Offshore drilling operations 



This research has been funded by the Norwegian Research Council’s Petromaks programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Political Science/NTNU Social Research LtdNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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