Over the past fifteen years there has been a continuous push through out the industrialized world to develop and implement common standards for the quality management of virtually all critical business processes. This drive led to the development of the ISO-9000 series of standards which have become internationally accepted and certification is becoming a requirement for doing business in the international community. While the cost and time for implementation of these systems is initially high, in the long term: safety, productivity, and profitability will increase for all companies through greater efficiency and higher quality products.

The Management of Safety is a subset of a Quality Management System. In the Oil and Gas industry detailed management of safety, e.g., with respect to risk and hazard assessment for processes and critical operations, where developed in the refining and chemical down stream sectors of the business. These procedures and processes where not widely used in the upstream, exploration and development side. This changed after the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 and led to the implementation of a very stringently structured Safety Management System requirements for all upstream operators in the North Sea region.

Incident Management is a subset of Safety Management. Setting standards for the management of incidents, from relatively minor ones to major disasters, has also received a lot of attention over the last 15 years. The United States has particularly made a significant effort in this regard due to the high occurrence of natural disasters, such as earth quakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and forest fires in their country. These incidents in many cases require the resources of many agencies and private industry responders for mitigation and recovery. With out standards there would be (and has been in the past) chaos in the management of the these events. In the oil and gas industry these standards have been modified and implemented for responding to oil spills in the US, after the Exxon Valdez spill, and is gaining international acceptance.

One of the major reasons, incident management standards are so important, is it sets common procedures (particularly for response) that all responders learn and adhere to regardless of which agency or company they belong to. This is important in an emergency as there is not time for responder to learn a companies in-house system. For example, in USA federal waters, all oil spills, regardless of the operator, are managed using the Incident Command System, if the Coast Guard is not satisfied with the spillers response, they will take over from the operator and send them the bill after the operation is concluded.

Many changes have taken place in the exploration and development sector in the last 10 years that affect incident management. These include, down sizing and outsourcing of specialized technical functions, non centralized asset management, retirement of in-house experienced personnel in field operations management (i.e. blowout control), rapid movement of managers from location to location, retirement of experienced firefighters (Red Adair and Boots & Coots) and dilution of experience base with remaining fire fighting companies, aging tubulars and equipment, and increased environmental consequences.

A well control problem is an incident that must be managed, whether the incident is a simple kick or a major disaster such as the Piper Alpha blowout. If the industry does not develop a standard for managing well control incidents, eventually (after another future disaster), additional government regulations will be imposed forcing their standards (e.g., safety cases from post Piper Alpha). The Well Control Management System is a timely strategy designed to: fit into existing international Quality, Safety and Incident Management Systems and to have common procedures (not withstanding local adaptation) both within the operating company and as much as possible within the industry. The Well Control Management System is based on the United States, National Interagency Incident Management System, (NIIMS) guidelines for emergency management.  It consists of five major subsystems that collectively provide a total system approach to well control and management of its potential hazards for three levels of increasing severity.

This will eventually increase the efficiency, safety and response capabilities of all operators. This is important as a mistake by one company will affect all other operators in the region. It will additionally eliminate the need for personnel and contractors to learn a new system each time a manager or potential responder moves into or out of an operating area or company. It will also increase the efficiency of contingency planning documents as there is a common standard to build upon. There is no need to continuously reinvent the wheel with each change of manager, contractor or well control specialist.