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Katharine (Kathy) Parkes


Visiting Researcher

Research Summary

My research has focused primarily on safety and health in high-risk work environments, particularly in the oil/gas industry, but also in aviation and transport. More recently, as a member of the Risk and Safety Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford, my research interests have widened to include patient safety in hospitals and other healthcare settings, 

As Reader in Applied Psychology, much of my earlier research at Oxford was carried out in the North Sea oil/gas industry, funded by the UK Health and Safety Executive. Offshore workers are exposed to remote and potentially hazardous environments in which safety risks, both individual (e.g. accident or injury) and operational (e.g. fire, explosion, structural failure) are always a significant concern. Moreover, offshore production/ drilling operations continue round-the-clock, thus imposing long work hours and night shifts. These conditions, together with safety-critical control tasks, heavy manual work, confined living conditions, and adverse physical environment, are conducive to fatigue and performance impairment, and hence to increased accident risk. Our research led to a number of safety-related recommendations, including optimum shift rosters, working hours, and living conditions, which are now incorporated in the UK Health and Safety Executive's guidance to the offshore industry.  

In recent years, I have collaborated with the Centre for Safety, University of Western Australia (UWA). Among other projects, we have developed an assessment method that allows industry regulators and managers to evaluate 'fitness-to-operate' in high-risk industries; this instrument provides a systematic method of assessing the safety capabilities of potentially hazardous work sites. We have also worked  with a multinational mining company to improve safety among maintenance personnel. The initial aim of this work is to  identify factors that affect compliance with formal task procedures, and to evaluate the extent to which failure to comply gives rise to elevated safety risks. Other research on-going  includes studies of fatigue, sleep patterns  and the well-being of fly-in,fly-out (FIFO) workers.


Parkes, K. R. (2012). Shift schedules on North Sea oil/gas installations: A systematic review of their impact on performance, safety and health.  Safety Science, 50, 1636-1651.

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