Professor Andrew Hopkins' Working Papers

Professor Andrew Hopkins of the Australian National University is an internationally-renowned presenter, author an consultant in the field of industrial safety and accident analysis.

In 2008, he received the European Process Safety Centre price for extraordinary contribution to process safety in Europe - the first time the prize was awarded to someone outside of Europe.

Hopkins consulted to the US Chemical Board investigation of the BP Texas City and Gulf of Mexico accidents.

Research interests: 

Management of work health and safety; Risk management and decision making in hazardous industries; High reliability organisations; Industrial disasters; Organisational culture and its effects on work health and safety; Regulation of work health and safety.

Research projects: 

Andrew's research has focused particularly on industrial disasters in hazardous industries, including investigations into disasters at the Moura and Gretley coal mines, the Longford gas plant and the BP Texas City refinery; and chemical exposure of workers at the Amberley Air Force base.  

Working Papers

wORKING PAPER 247: Petroleum industry and climate change

This paper outlines four key areas in which the oil and gas industry can contribute to climate action while acting in its own interest – carbon pricing, supply chain leakage, addressing permafrost methane emissions and biofuels/biochar production


Working Paper 72: Risk Management and Rule Compliance Decision Making in Hazardous Industries

Risk-management and rule-compliance are inter-related strategies for promoting safety in hazardous industries. They are co-existing and complementary, not contradictory. However risk-management offers very little guidance to end point decision-makers; they need rules to guide their decisions. Accordingly, it is important, even within a riskmanagement framework that risk-management be translated into rule-compliance for end point decision-makers, where possible. The paper demonstrates that this is what in fact happens for a wide range of operational decision-making.

For non-operational decisions, such as investment and design decisions, the need to convert risk-management into rule-compliance is equally important, although more controversial. Nevertheless the authorities have shown that they are willing to impose prescriptive technical rules on duty holders in relation to non-operational decisions, in the interests of safety.

These points are illustrated using a variety of empirical examples and materials, most particularly, the BP Texas City accident, the Buncefield accident, and the Australian pipeline standard.

 Hopkins, Andrew, 2010, WP 72 - Risk management and rule compliance decision making in hazardous industries, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra


Working Paper 78: Dealing with Catastrophic Safety and Environmental Risks: Lessons from the Global Financial Crisis

The Global Financial crisis of late 2008 was generated by years of risky behaviour in the finance industry. These risks had paid off for myriads of decision makers in the short term, but the long term consequence was financial catastrophe. Since 2008 a number of ideas have emerged about how to alter the incentive arrangements for finance industry decision makers, in such a way as to make them more concerned about the longer term consequences of their behaviour. The argument of this paper is that these ideas have
direct relevance for the management of catastrophic health, safety and environmental (HSE) risks, and thus for the prevention of disasters such as the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The paper begins by describing the way incentive systems contributed to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008.

Hopkins, Andrew, 2011, WP 78 - Dealing with catastrophic safety and environmental risks: Lessons from the Global Financial Crisis, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra


Working Paper 87: Explaining 'Safety Case'

What are features of safety case regimes that are sometimes taken for granted in the jurisdictions where they operate? This free download sets out a model of what might be described as a mature safety case regime.

Five basic features are highlighted:

  • A risk- or hazard-management framework

  • A requirement to make the case to the regulator

  • A competent and independent regulator

  • Workforce involvement

  • A general duty of care imposed on the operator

Hopkins, Andrew, 2012, WP 87 - Explaining “Safety Case”, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra


Why Safety Cultures Don't Work

Oil and gas companies will never be "high-reliability organizations" if they rely on campaigns to change hearts and minds on the operational front line.  Instead, argues renowned author Andrew Hopkins, they must identify the obvious precursors to catastrophe and get serious about eliminating them - led firmly from the top.

Andrew Hopkins is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Australian National University in Canberra. His books include Disastrous Decisions: The Human and Organisational Causes of the Gulf of Mexico Blowout, and Failure to Learn: The BP Texas City Refinery Disaster. 


The problem of defining high reliability organisations

This paper looks at the issues around how one defines a High Reliability Organisation and the metrics used to achieve this.  Furthermore Hopkins discusses how a HRO can differ from non HROs.

The paper provides a detailed critique of the original HRO research and the recent approach to identifying HROs based on empirical research.

Hopkins, Andrew, 2007, WP51,The Problem of Defining High Reliability Organisations, Faculty of Arts and National Research Centre for OHS Regulation
Australian National University

wORKING pAPER 79: Management walk-arounds: lessons from the gulf of mexico oil well blowout

Many companies understand that good management requires senior managers to spend time with front line workers. Some companies build into performance agreements for senior managers a requirement that they conduct a certain number of such site visits each year. The challenge is to make productive use of these visits. Safety is often a focus for visiting VIPs, but too often safety is understood to be a matter of “slips, trips and falls”, rather than the major hazards that can blow the plant or the rig apart. This paper will examine a VIP visit made to the Deepwater Horizon rig by senior managers from BP and
from the rig owner, Transocean, just hours before the explosion. It will argue that, despite their best of intentions, these managers fell into the trap identified above. The paper also looks at things that senior managers can do to focus attention on the most significant hazards.



Do organisational cultures influence safety and if so how? This paper will look at this question in depth and look at the tools, strategies that are available which considering their effects on safety. Andrew looks at examples including the cultural analysis carried out by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. The paper also offer up more time efficient strategies.


Working Paper 53: Thinking About Process Safety Indicators

This paper has been an attempt to think through the meaning of process safety indicators. In particular Professor Hopkins has examined the meaning of the terms “leading” and “lagging” in two recent influential publications and found that they are not used with any consistency.

The paper also reflects on the Baker panel proposal that process safety indicators be included in incentive pay schemes. This would be an important step forward, but care must be exercised to ensure that it does not lead to attempts to manage the measure as opposed to managing safety. Given that it is senior executives who have the most influence on safety, the aim must be to include appropriate indicators of process safety in their performance agreements. There is scope for a great deal of creativity in targeting these agreements to safety-relevant matters that lie within their control.

Working Paper 39: The Gretley Coal Mine Disaster: Reflections of the Finding that Mine Managers were to Blame

This paper is concerned with the prosecutions arising out the Gretley mine disaster in 1996. It examines the findings about the culpability of the individuals and corporations prosecuted. The paper contains two draft chapters from the proposed book. Comments and corrections are invited.