Dr. Jan Hayes on “Fantasy Planning, Black Swans, and Integrity Management: The San Bruno Pipeline Rupture”



The San Bruno pipeline rupture in 2010 caused 8 deaths and destroyed a suburb. Although it was profoundly surprising to the company concerned, from a broader perspective it was no surprise at all, stemming from well-known human, organizational and regulatory failures. This presentation will examine the causes of this type of event and so what we can all learn from it. In particular, two contrasting but equally flawed approaches to the prevention of rare but catastrophic events are discussed; Fantasy planning where companies often try to convince themselves, regulators and members of the public that they have the relevant hazards under control because they have elaborate plans to deal with them, and Black swans – a metaphor for a rare event with major impact, which is thought to be quite unpredictable at the time. These two concepts shed new light on why integrity management is so difficult to get right and also how it can be improved.

This is an essential presentation for anyone in a position of responsibility for hazardous facilities and anyone who uses risk assessments to manage and prioritise activities.


Dr. Hayes has 30 years’ experience in safety and risk management. Her project experience covers a range of industries including offshore oil and gas, onshore petrochemicals, gas pipelines, mining, manufacturing and transportation (including air traffic control). Her current activities cover academia, consulting and regulation. She holds an Associate Professor appointment in the Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research at RMIT University where her research interests include operational decision making, safety in design, professionalism and the use of standards. She is Program Leader for the social science research activities of the Energy Pipelines Co-operative Research Centre. In addition, she consults part time with a small group of clients on safety performance improvement projects. Dr Hayes is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Dr. Hayes holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Adelaide and a Master of Business from Swinburne University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology from the Australian National University.

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