The Program Leader for Research Program 4 Public Safety and Security of Supply is Associate Professor Jan Hayes. She is currently part of the Centre for Construction for Work Health and Safety Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Jan holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Adelaide, a Master of Business from Swinburne University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology from the The Australian National University.
Whilst she is now a sociology academic, Jan started her career in a different profession and a different field. She was working as a process engineer supporting Bass Strait offshore oil and gas production operations in 1987 when the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea was destroyed by fire. This terrible incident sent shock waves through the Australian offshore industry and Jan’s career immediately moved into safety and risk, as part of Esso Australia’s Piper Alpha response team.
For close to fifteen years, Jan worked as a professional engineer, moving from operations to design and finally to risk consulting. Jan was a director and part owner of Quest Consulting Pty Ltd (one of Australia’s best known industrial risk and safety consultancies) between 1991 and 2004 where she managed up to 50 staff and was personally responsible for projects ranging from technical safety studies (such as safety cases, HAZOP studies, QRAs and reliability studies) to organisational psychology reviews and human factors studies.
Jan retains her interest in the offshore oil and gas sector as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.
Since 2004, Jan has been working with Prof Andrew Hopkins at ANU, firstly as a PhD student and more recently as an academic colleague. Jan’s PhD research focused on safety decision making by senior operations personnel using case studies in petrochemicals, air traffic control and nuclear power to investigate issues of professional judgement and expertise. This work was published as a book by Ashgate in 2013 and has received significant interest in Australia and overseas.
In addition to supervising several PhD students, Jan’s personal research work with the Energy Pipelines CRC currently focuses on writing another book (with Andrew Hopkins) on the organisational lessons from the San Bruno (PG&E) and Marshall (Enbridge) pipeline disasters in the US in 2010. This book was published in late 2014.
Technical colleagues who have heard Jan speak know that she is passionate about helping organisations to understand that safety performance improvement lies significantly in the social, rather than technical, aspects of work. Technical people are almost trained to ignore the social and to see workers (both field personnel and engineers) as simply cogs in an enormous organisational machine. In the first instance, the research capabilities of RMIT aims to bring to the Energy Pipelines CRC and to the pipeline industry an ability to discuss the social aspects of organisational life and the impact on public safety.