High-Octane Work: The oil and gas workplace
This paper introduces the oil and gas workplace context and describes work practices observed at a large Norwegian gas refinery. Ethnographic fieldwork was carried out over a ten day period, consisting of observational studies and informal interviews. They are a small, inter-disciplinary group who are highly mobile and work in a hazardous, critical environment where mistakes can pose risk to health, safety and the environment as well as significant financial loss. Two main shift roles, field operator and central control room operator, are discussed and related to the wider workplace. Even in this technologically-advanced workplace, non-digital informational artifacts are important, often serving as bridges to support flowing activity between communities of practice and the physical and digital. Spending time in the physical plant was seen as an important way to develop an understanding of the process and to gain insight not available through a control system. The primary contribution of this paper is the detailing and discussion of an oil and gas workplace from a CSCW perspective, a context not well established in the literature, yet one that poses an interesting range of design challenges.
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