Marc McBride

RAS Safety: a barrier or an opportunity for growth? event chair and Principal Inspector – Nuclear Safety at ONR

We’re thrilled to have you chair our RAS Safety: a barrier or an opportunity for growth event in June, what are you most looking forward to during the evening?

I’m most looking forward to hearing about the latest application of RAS in different industry sectors and the challenges and opportunities this presents for effective regulation and development of appropriate standards.  The Hazards Forum is delighted to be running this event in collaboration with the newly formed National RAS Committee on Regulation, Standards and Ethics, which has a vital role to play in supporting development of a modern regulatory framework for RAS that will enable its adoption in the UK.

We know ONR are a member of the Hazards Forum and we’d like to know more about your professional life. Please can you give some background of your current role?

I am a Principal Inspector for Nuclear Safety in the Office for Nuclear Regulation and lead a team of inspectors who specialise in organisational factors, including matters such as organisational capability, safety culture and leadership.  Prior to that I worked as a chemical engineer and process safety specialist in a variety of sectors, including the oil, gas and chemical industries.  I have worked in the UK and overseas, for regulatory bodies, consultancy companies and operators.

During your career, has RAS Safety been a barrier or allowed growth?

I have seen RAS deployed in hazardous environments in both the nuclear and oil and gas industries, for example to aid decommissioning and carry out inspection and maintenance tasks.  Use of “intelligent pigs” for example has been a cornerstone of safety in the oil and gas pipelines sector for many years.  I think RAS has been an important enabler to growth in these sectors, providing an opportunity to carry out hazardous activities more safely and effectively. 

What risks do you foresee in RAS?

RAS are increasingly complex and can fail in unexpected ways, which may have safety implications.  There is therefore a need to provide adequate validation of RAS used in safety-critical environments, preventing unintended consequences where possible or adding defence in depth. Ethical considerations such as the appropriate use of RAS, and protection of personal and other sensitive information, are key.

What are the benefits of RAS?

Over the coming years, RAS will have a transformative effect in many industry sectors – from agriculture, through health and social care to warehouse operations.  RAS offers the opportunity of improving safety, health and wellbeing of users, workers and the public while enhancing productivity in these sectors.

At the end of our event, we’ll be holding a panel discussion with all four speakers, what will be your burning question for the panel?

My burning question for the panel how we can enhance the regulatory and standards framework for RAS in a way that enables its adoption, while building trust and addressing the legitimate concerns of stakeholders.

What do you think the takeaway will be for those attending this event?

A key takeaway for this event will be the need to address the risks and opportunities of RAS in a cross-sector, interdisciplinary and outward-looking way.  I hope participants will gain a better understanding of the work of the new National RAS Committee on Regulation, Standards, and Ethics and take up the opportunity to join the committee’s working groups and community.

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