Over the years, the hydrocarbon industry has been riddled with accidents and incidences that can be partly blamed on “cost cutting” driven risk assessments and operational “lean management”. The epicentre of lean management is the elimination of waste for any industrial setup. However, when the processes are too lean accidents may ensue; putting the facilities, workers and the business at risk. Even though the hydrocarbon industry has reliable quantitative risk assessment techniques that may incorporate probabilistic measures to predict the likelihood of systems failure, there are times when “human call” is cardinal to decisions. Whenever human call is used in risk assessment there is a possibility of biasness in the judgement for risk partly due to the social-cultural influence on risk assessors. Therefore the aim of this research was to examine the level of social and cognitive bias in risk assessment of lean management processes at four oil and gas refinery plants in Kuwait. Using ethnomethodology as a research strategy it was possible to gather contextual primary information from the workers at the four refineries. Results from the research indicate that there is a high level of human involvement in risk assessment processes where social-cultural and psychological attributes of the risk assessors are evident. However, current risk assessment tools and processes do not engage risk assessors at a social-cultural level; hence ignoring the influence of biased judgement on risk scores. It can therefore be concluded that unlike technical risk assessment, there is poor incorporation of social-cultural and psychological initiatives in the processes leading to poor decisions that endanger hydrocarbon installations. It is recommended that the hydrocarbon industry in Kuwait strives to apply lean management principles by ensuring that there is detailed analysis of social and cognitive bias in the technical proceedings so as to simultaneously promote efficiency and safety at work.

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