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Topic 54: Quality Assurance/Control -the influence on Safety

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

This morning I have read a preliminary report (not online yet) regarding the ditching of 2x helicopters in the north sea this year (May & October) whilst there were no casualties in the latter incident it appears that both failures wer attributable to a circumferential crack around the main gearbox shaft. The root cause of the crack is still under investigation, and in this case it could be anything from poor design to a material fault. However this got me thinking about some of the poor / shoddy materials and components that have come to my attention over the last few years or so, and some of which have resulted in casualties. One particular instance involved a Duplex Stainless Steel high pressure steam line that was installed in a Texas Power Station. The material was sourced from South East Asia and was exported to south America where it had passed through several different countries and had been re-procesed, polished etc with changes in its original certification before being installed in the power staion where it ruptured under pressure, killed 3 people and injured several others. My apologies to all I tried to search for the original news feed but had no joy. Very often we hear negative views of QA/QC staff and how sometimes they are viewed as a burden cost. I am interested to hear the views of  fellow students and other forum subscribers.

Comments welcome as usual



Tianchi You's picture

Nowadays, a lot of companies have taken the rules of QAS, which is Quality Assurance System. In my opinion,this system have several noticeable advantages :

  • It can analyze the issues behind the safety sectors
  • It can explain the connections between the consequences and potential hazards
  • It can decrease the risk into a relatively theoretical level

However, it takes time and money to play an efficient role in the real life. If it is a big company like oil&gas company, there will be special departments like HSE to supervise these companies; however, some small companies in developing countries are lack of supervision so that they won't obey the rules totally. For example, coal is the main resource which used for making electricity in China. The safety and issurance behind the coal mine enterprises should be impeccable; however, several serious accidents happened in coal/mine enterprises and caused loss of human lives and property.

To sum up, quality assurance or control can definitely improve the standards of safety; however, if it is lack of supervison I think it may just like engaging in idle theorizing.


Tianchi You


Oil&gas engineering

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

Reading Tianchi's response. I dont entirely agree with the last sentance. However, I agree that to run an effective quality management system can be  costly but you can argue the fact that scrap products as a result of quality issues are even more costly. To take it a stage further , the loss of a life as a result of a poorly manufactured/ flawed product is beyond cost. Most companies in the UK big or small, have a quality management sytem whether this is an approved system or not the issues arise when these established syetems are not being followed and the consequence is often a flawed product outcome. If I was asked what are the 2 main areas in a QMS that would give me confidence that a product was in compliance, I would have to say effective Auditing and appropriate Quality Control. The signature I use on my work email in addition to my details states; "Trust but Verify". I will utilize these words to see me to retirement and beyond.

Many thanks for the comment



Alabi Ochu Abdulraheem's picture

Safety, which is the relative freedom from danger, has a very great role to play from the design through fabrication, transportation to the installation of equipment at the site. Safety factors are being considered in the design of an equipment in accordance to the design standard specifications been used (examples are ISO, BN, NORSOK standards etc) to ensure the system is safe during operations by failing safe when the operating conditions are exceeded. After the design and fabrication of equipment, they are usually tested at the point of production before transportation to the site where they are to be installed and become functional. At this point, where the equipment gets to the site, quality assurance testing such as Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), Site Acceptance Test (SAT), etc are carried out. During the operation of the equipment, some different types of qualification test are carried out to confirm the performance of the equipment at its specified operating conditions and its compatibility with the electromagnetic environment. All these test are carried out to ensure the reliability of the equipment and the improved safety during operations.
Name: Alabi Ochu Abdulraheem
Reg no: 51231595

talal slim's picture


Trevor thanks for raising this interesting and important  topic .

QA/QC is a fundemental part of project executions in the oil and gas industry and specifically in the subsea industry . Establishing , implementing and consistently utilising an efficient Project Quality Management Plan (PQMP) is a key element of the project execution philosophy and is essential to delivering four key objectives :

1) Ensuring that deliverables (equipment and services) comply with the projects quality requirements and standards hence ensuring the safe and reliable performance of those deliverables

2) Supporting continous performance improvement

3) Reducing costs associated with rework activities

So each Operator makes it mandatory that each supplier considered for any work shall have a written quality management system that complies with ISO 9001 (quality management systems -requirements ) and ISO TS 29001 ( petroleum ,  petrochemical and natural gas industries-Sector specific quality management systems).

The supplier quality management system shall cover requirments for the following services : equipment, components , material and services and shall accomplish the following objectives: 1) identify the processes and controls to be implemented by Supplier and 2) ensure that items within the project specifications and scope of work meet the specified requirmenst

I will be happy to explain in details of the activities we do in subsea projects to ensure the quality and safety of the project deliverables in other posts


c.ejimuda's picture


I totally agree with Trevor's latest post that effective auditing and appropriate controls are great methods of managing quality assurance.

I would like to add to what Trevor and Tianchi have previously posted.

Quality assurance has a huge impact on safety and how operations are carried out. It is an ongoing process throughout a company's Quality Management System (QMS). Quality assurance is maintained through the use of a Quality Assurance System (QAS).

The QAS is a live evolving document which contains the company's description, policies, values, safety vision, how the company interacts within itself and with clients, who works there, what they do, how they do it, how they keep people safe and how they check that it is happening (control).

The QMS comprises of the following or more:

  • Company's Safety Management System.
  • Quality Management System: which should comply with ISO 9001 standards.
  • Occupational Health and Safety: should comply with OHSAS 18001.

Some of the information that should be contained in a QAS should include:

  • Predefined contractors i.e. contractors are assigned to do a specific task and ensuring it is done by known and verified contractors.
  • Predefined supply i.e. spare parts are bought from original equipment parts suppliers or that suppliers are verified through audit and inspection.
  • An audit process that can be carried out internally and externally by a certified auditors.
  • Direct job descriptions including the interfaces between workers and the management.
  • Management and workers' responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined.

Quality control on the other hand, is the process to ensure that the quality management system put in place is adhered to.

Some of the methods of control that could be in place are as follows:

  • Card behavioural system
  • Document control
  • Permit to Work (PTW) system, Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)
  • Risk Assessment process.
  • Reviews of PTW process for carrying out critical jobs and ensuring PTW are closed out including Job Specific Analysis (JSA) and feedback.
  • Safety meetings, Town hall meetings and staff involvement in processes.
  • Management of change
  • Staff involvement, participation and ownership of the safety processes.
  • On the Job Training (OJT) which is logged and verified.
  • Training and drills formalised and verified to increase competency.

In conclusion, to have a safe operation, companies / employers should be able to demonstrate that its QMS should be able to reduce risk to ALARP through industry best practice.

Chukwumaijem M Ejimuda MSC Safety and Reliability Engineering.

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

Thanks for the fantastic responses guys. Its reassuring to know that there are engineers out there that recognise the importance of a QMS within the O&G sector. I have nothing further to add to the comments above, but would like to add the following; Maybe Engineers like ourselves can change peoples perception on the importance of Quality and behaviours within that have an impact on HS&E. In a previous blog I had highlighted a simple formula: Safety + Quality =Productivity and surely the latter is most important to any company since it is profit related.

Thanks again for the comments guys

Joan.C.Isichei's picture

The three fundamental functions of Quality assurance are[1];

1. Securing Quality

2. Ascertaining Quality

3. Verifying Quality

In my opinion, I feel that Quality assurance and control issues are taken seriously by most organizations, however, attempts to foster quality improvements still frequently fail especially when carrying out functions 2 and 3 above. Following Tianchi and Trevor’s posts, this can be attributed to cost issues and sheer negligence on the part of the company. My suggestion to combat this issue is the imposition of severe penalties on any company (both small and large organizations) that has been found guilty of violating quality assurance and control standards. This will help to limit the future occurrence of quality assurance related accidents and improve safety considerably.


1.     Some basic problems of quality assurance in service industries by Masao 


Andrew Strachan's picture

Good points Joan. I would like to look at the issue of setting the quality standards you refer to. High quality comes at a cost (time/money/effort) and suppliers are constantly competing for business. I would argue that quality should be driven from the top down. If quality requirements are well defined in a tender specification then this sets a level playing field for the whole supply chain.

If a customer is asking for the cheapest product "as soon as possible" and is not setting the correct standard of expected quality then the old adage "get what you pay for" often applies.

victor.adukwu's picture

Good point Joan and Ejimuda. Let me add that Quality Assurance and Quality Control is very important in safety of industrial practices and one of the recommended mostly used standards is ISO 9001. ISO 9001 details the steps necessary to adopt a Quality Management System (QMS) in line with the International Standards Organisation (ISO), local statutory and regulatory requirements. ISO 9001 is designed to help organisations ensure they meet the needs and expectations of both customers and other interested parties.
What are the ISO 9001 requirements?
ISO 9001 deals with the fundamentals of a Quality Management System (QMS) based on eight management principles covering:
• Customer Focus
• Leadership
• Involvement of People
• Process Approach
• System Approach to Management
• Continual Improvement
• Factual Approach to Decision Making
• Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships.
This fundamental Quality Management System is an important safety approach which should be used in all work environment to promote safety.

ISO 9001 Quality Management [online]

Victor Adukwu

Felipe.Santana.Lima's picture

The influence of QA on safety is quite direct and this is anything but surprising. QA is concerned with ensuring that components are delivered to the specifications. Components that do not comply with the specifications affect the probability of component failure. Component failures often escalate to system failures which may in turn lead to accidents with consequences to humans, property and the environment.

As Trevor Strawbridge mentioned the incident with the duplex stainless steel high pressure steam line I remembered of hydrogen induced stress crack (HISC). Duplex and super duplex stainless steels in subsea equipment are particularly susceptible to HISC, and ensuring the quality of the piping and fittings alone is not sufficient. Even when the steel composition and structure are perfectly acceptable, the combination of exposure to cathodic protection, nitrogen and high mechanical loads create sufficient conditions for HISC leading to failure of duplex components.

 Although many failures of duplex subsea components have been attributed to HISC, it is still a considerable knowledge gap in this area. DNV has created DNV-RP-F112 with some recommended practices on the design of duplex stainless steel subsea equipment exposed to cathodic protection.

In sum, in duplex stainless steel subsea equipment, QA cannot be focused on individual components only; instead it needs to be applied on system level. Not only the piping components need to comply with the specifications but also the operational loads on the piping system as a whole need to be verified.


1. DNV-RP-F112 Recommended Practice:  “Design of duplex stainless steel subsea equipment  exposed to cathodic protection”, 2008.

2. Bahrami A and Woollin P: “Hydrogen induced stress cracking of duplex stainless steel subsea components”, 2010.

3. Taylor T S, Pendlington T and Bird R: “Foinaven super duplex materials cracking investigation”. Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) 1999, paper OTC 10965.

4.  Woollin P and Murphy W:  “Hydrogen embrittlement stress cracking of superduplex stainless steel”, Corrosion 2001, NACE International, paper 01018.

5. Woollin P and Gregori A: “Avoiding hydrogen embrittlement stress cracking of ferritic austenitic stainless steels under cathodic protection”, OMAE 2004, paper 51203.

talal slim's picture


You have listed some good points about QC but I want to add  to that on how do we deal with Quality control when executing subsea projects .

The Operator (oil company ) specifies that the  contractor/vendor  shall plan the different Quality Surveillance activities along the three different realisation processes: 1)  “Design and engineering”, 2)  “Purchasing” and 3)  “Production” processes.

The aggregated activities form the contractor  Quality Control Plan(s) (QCP) (sometimes named “Inspection and Test Plan” within “Production” process)  complete(s) the  Quality Plan established for the project . Several plan(s) may be necessary in case of multiple deliveries. The contents of the Quality Control Plan(s) shall be based on the provisions of the contrcator's  internal Quality Management system and on a criticality rating of the different deliverables of the project.

The Quality Control Plan(s) shall be structured in a comprehensive manner per each deliverable  and per stages within the different realisation processes.

Each individual verification activity shall be identified with indication of:

• The type, nature and extent of the “verifications” to be performed by CONTRACTOR or by its SUPPLIER (SUB-CONTRACTOR, VENDOR, SUB-VENDORS)

• The competence, qualification and authority necessary to perform these “verifications”

• The values and acceptance criteria for monitoring and measurement activities

• The reference to the methods chosen for destructive and non-destructive testing(sampling, laboratory analysis, etc.) or to the relevant standards applicable or, where appropriate, to a tool such as statistical processes control (SPC).

talal slim's picture

As a supplement to my blog above about QC on subsea projects I will briefly touch on the ITPs (inspection and test plans) used to ensure that the required level of quality is achieved before the subsea  equipment is delivered by Vendors .

The Oil Company specifies that each Vendor  shall develop and implement ITPs for manufacturing, fabrication, assembly,integration, and testing activities on subsea projects and those ITPs shall be  reviewed and  accepted by the Oil Company  prior to the start of work. Those ITPs  cover all the  major quality-related activities , from contract review through manufacturing/fabrication, assembly, final testing, documentation, and certification. All ther Inspection and testing activities are performed using approved  ITPs,procedures, and acceptance criteria. 

Each ITP contains the following information as a minumum :

a. The locations at which activities will take place.

b. The Quality verification activity/stage.

c. The reference document/procedure or method statement to perform each activity.

d. The acceptance criteria.

e. All the verification documents generated to provide evidence of conformance with the specified requirements.

f. All the verification documents that should be included in the MRB (manufacturing record book )

g. All the inspection activities defined in terms of witness, hold,and document review points.


I would
like to add more explanation for defined activities in ITP. Normally individual
inspection in the plan can be categorized with review point, hold point,
witness point. In review point, contractor can do their work with simple
notification and after execution inspector can review the
result. Contractor should notify schedule of inspection for witness point
with enough time to arrangement. In case of hold point, client has a right to
postpone its execution if it is not ready to go. As a result, critical
activities are included in hold point.

Project team should make a balance between quality and schedule. Quality
is important for safety and performance of project and hence every inspection
should be regarded with hold point. On the other hands schedule will be delayed
if every inspection or test is hold point. Additionally, close interface with
contractor is also important so that Inspector can be dispatched with in time
without any dragging inspection schedule.



Samuel Bamkefa's picture

I'm impressed with the number of elaborative posts have gone ahead. To add my own thoughts to this, I will first like to differentiate between quality control and quality assurance. 

Quality assurance focuses on the process and aims to prevent defects and is proactive in approach. It is performed in the development process. Quality control, however, is reactive as it focuses on the finished product and compares it with what was intended. Inspection is a good example of this.

In relation to safety, there are some particular industries that have the quality of their processes/products having a direct effect on safety. A major one is the construction industry where low quality products can result in catastrophic ends. Others include the automotive, food, equipment manufacturing among others.

Going on from there,  some of the effects of breach in quality relates to health, environment and safety. I will think that one main reason why any organisation will compromise on quality is the cost of carrying out all QA/QC operations. However, the cost of poor quality will always outweigh the cost of good quality. Part of what arises as a result of the cost of poor quality relates to environment, reputation, litigations. etc. From what Trevor said about QA/QC staff being seen as a burden, I think the companies involved in those accidents you talked about will now have a changed view.

One good way to ensure quality is the use of external auditors. This will help give an independent view and correct the blind spots that the organisation might have.

Samuel Bamkefa

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

In response to the above Samuel is correct in his definitions except quality control is not only applicable to end product but can be in-process and is also relevent at design stages. For example review points of a design function on an ITP. In UK O&G sector we are normally pretty good at controlling our quality but we should never take this for granted as mistakes , errors  whether unitentional or not can occur at any point. Hence, the term I apply "Trust but Verify". Just a point on a Quality Assurance Management syetem; Companys develop their own systems to suit the way they work usually in accordance  ISO9001. The problem here is that the systems which are now written in a "Process like" format can be shy of meeting client requirements. The latest ISO standard only requires companies to produce  minimal amount of control documents such as process control diagrams or procedures. The 1994 version was more detailed and was more stringently adapted to batch type producers as well as high volume type producers. The more stringent Quality standard in our industry is APIQ1, as this is policed more strictly and is subject to unannounced external audits. With this all said a  QMS is only as good as the people whom devlop it, work with it,  audit it, and effectively manage it.

 Comments welcome as usual


Ike Precious C.'s picture

Good job, Chukwumaijem and Trevor. Your comments got me thinking this blog is done; you've finished it but.......

In as much as Auditing is required for these QA/QC systems and plans, enough effort must be put in place to ensure that these Auditors are verified as being qualified to conduct such auditing services so as to avoid being audited based on outdated practices that hold no ground, though they may have the reputation based on past glories.

I also think the choice of auditors should be done carefully because, sometimes, these external auditors use this as a medium to be favoured by the company when they say what the compnay wants to hear - Many companies will not love to hear that costly modifications will be required when they can see a competitor doing well without such a modification. 

I would like to ask some questions:

1) Trevor, these unannounced External Audits, who bears the cost? The auditing company or the Company that will be audited? 

2) Chukwumaijem, the evolution of the QMS will it be with respect to Technological changes or with respect to Accidents/Incidents that occur, which may be within the company or in another company?

Thank you.

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

Ike: to answer point 1 above

API Q1 is an approval of a QMS that is specific to the approved company (usually applicable to manufacturers of equipment such as wellhead equipment to API6A or Linepipe to API5L etc) The cost is bourne by the company but the benifit is that they become licienced to monogram the product with the API logo and this does carry some prestiege and provides confidence to the buyer.This is a more stringent QMS than ISO 9001. Other specific type sytems include UKAS (formally NAMAS) usually associated with Test and calibration laboratories.

Hope this helps


Maxwell Otobo's picture

I strongly agree with Felipe.Santana's comment above and i will like to elaborate on the QA/QC of materials/products. The QA is carried out to confirm the product meets the desired specification and it is normally conducted by the owner. The QA starts at the design phase and includes; the specification, procurement, manufacturing, fabrication, installation and commisioning of the materials or equipment.

The QC can be said to be a part of the QA and can be described similarly to an 'insurance' in the sense that it is not necessary needed at all times but when needed, it had better be there. It is normally conducted by a contractor and involves inspection and testing to identify defective and non-conforming products. It is also done to ensure the product will meet or exceed QA specifications.


Trevor Strawbridge's picture

To clarify Maxwell's point above

QA (Quality Assurance) is the implementation and development of an Organization's system intended to manage its quality. This includes procedures, documented processes, audit control etc

QC (Quality Control) is the verification of the conformity of the product to meet the procedures, specifications, requirements etc as defined within the QMS.Quality control can be Inspection (sampling or continuous), review , audit, testing, measuring, validation etc and can start from the very begining of a Contract/Order. ie Contract Review

 Done this for years hope this helps



Manuel Maldonado's picture

The quality assurance processes are required to ensure the safety process is effectively implemented. It is recognised that some of safety initiatives failed to be implemented because there is not a robust process which manage the implementation. Now, although some of those initiatives are implemented we still see repetitive events occurring in the industry which affect safety. Some of those events make the existing safety processes to be ineffective which can be seen in the following areas:

  • Lack of compliance with standards, rules or engineering practices which are not documented.
  • Failure to implement regular inspections, tests or maintenance routines.
  • Failure to establish and implement procedures for critical processes
  • Lack of robust performance management methods and measures
  • Inadequate communications among the organization

It is then recognised that a quality assurance process is required as a mechanism for improving in all those processes and areas. The QA process will reinforce good practices and methods to ensure that control, organization, tracking and follow up are implemented in order to ensure the success of the safety initiatives.

The quality assurance process within the safety process will promote the achievement of the main safety goal which is to achieve zero non-conformance or incidents in the work place. The quality assurance process will be used within the strategy for managing safety as a mechanism to ensure all objectives set for each process to achieve compliance are met and the require processes to make improvement are in place.

Agba A. Imbuo's picture

There is a need to ensure that organisation have a system with functional health and safety procedures. This will help them control risk and improve performance. To achieve this, a lot of legislation has been set up to guide in achieving best practises. They include
•Electricity at Work Act Regulations 1989
•The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
•Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
•The Noise at Work Regulations 1989
Organization uses these standards to assess their conformity to health and safety. This provides a platform to assess if the organisation conforms to health and safety policies. This could be demonstrated in the quality of goods or services they provide.


Mohamed H. Metwally's picture

It is very sad that quality department/personnel sometimes
are the cause behind terrible accidents. Yes, definitely, safety and quality
are interrelated, not only that, engineering is all about maintaining safety
(in economic way); and QA has to look after implementing the design so that
engineering efforts don't go in vain.

So, perhaps, QA personnel need to be involved (or aware of)
the design philosophy so that they won't be just doing routine work without
deep understanding of what they're doing....

Tony Morgan's picture

Yes exactly they should and this should be considered under personal development as well as of benefit to the project as they get access to personnel with enhanced understanding of the issues not silo's of experts in only their narrow field of vision.
The three brick masons. When the first man was asked what he was building, he answered gruffly, without even raising his eyes from his work, "I'm laying bricks." The second man replied, "I'm building a wall." But the third man said enthusiastically and with obvious pride, "I'm building a cathedral."
And below is some further info on leadership and recognising peoples strengths, weaknesses and the idea of TEAMS.

tony morgan

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