To keep pace with the increasing momentum of the oil and gas industry, oilfield health and safety protocols must evolve.
From driving safety coalitions to advancements in voltage detection technology we take a look at the latest improvements in oilfield health and safety initiatives and debunk some common misconceptions about what it takes to build a safety culture that works.
What new practices are innovating Oilfield Health and Safety culture?
Electrical Safety – To reduce the risks of working with high-voltage electricity, service companies are implementing technologies that increase the distance between personnel and electrical hazards. While electrical field sensors have existed for decades, the technology is evolving to the point where soon, electrical technicians will be able to detect any amount of voltage present without ever contacting the equipment.
Risk Assessments – When working on a site or even in the shop, employees can encounter multiple safety hazards or near-misses without even knowing it. In an effort to protect employees and keep incident rates low, oilfield companies are placing a greater emphasis on risk assessment. Rather than only evaluating an activity before work is started, personnel should continuously assess risk while work is being conducted as conditions change. This ongoing awareness and reporting may be repeated multiple times throughout the course of a project to address any changes in the environment or situation which employees should be aware of.
Driving Safety – Lastly, driving safety has recently gained additional focus in the energy sector, perhaps due in part to the rising activity in the U.S., especially in the Permian and West Texas where the infrastructure for transportation is can struggle to accommodate heavy traffic. To address the large volume of trucks and semis on the road and reduce the number of traffic-related incidents, driving coalitions are being developed in certain areas of the country to identify ways to improve road safety. While these coalitions are made up of many oil and gas companies, some who are competitors, they have come together with one purpose in mind – to answer the question: “How can we make driving safer for all of our employees?”
What does an effective oilfield health and safety program look like?
For an HSE program to be effective, everyone must be involved, but strong participation by and a champion within management is the key. Safety policies and procedures are always more likely to be accepted when the managers and supervisors of the employees are conducting the training and when it is done on a regular basis. This not only involves scheduled safety meetings but also implementing ongoing safety awareness programs throughout the year. This ensures that HSE is not confined to one setting but is a widely understood set of principles that underscore the company’s standards of operation.
Where is there opportunity for growth in HSE for the oil and gas industry?
The way that organizations perceive and communicate the importance of safety throughout all levels of the company. This means embracing the fact that safety should not be seen as a chore imposed by external commanding forces – such as OSHA or customers – but should be part of a high-level strategy to achieve excellence and be driven internally by both managers and employees alike. Implementing an effective oilfield health and safety program means that safety can’t just be a task, it must be engrained in the culture of the organization. In fact, companies that do this well often see their performance in other areas of the company improve as well. As an indicator of the correlation between safety culture and productivity, a study by Fabius, Thayer, and Dixon (2013) showed a correlation between companies that outperformed the S&P 500 and their adoption of exemplary HSE programs. In summary, an organization that has a strong safety culture will, in turn, be more efficient, more productive, and deliver higher quality outputs.
How does an effective HSE program provide value to our customers?
The oil and gas industry sets high standards for safety – perhaps higher than most industries – because there are serious risks associated with the work. Poor safety performance is costly, not only because it leads to being shorthanded if employees are off work due to an injury, but also because the reputations of companies are at stake if they are seen as unsafe to work with. In a safety meeting held by one of the major E&P companies in the US, they reported that 80% of the people working on their sites work for contracting companies. These companies have to rely on their service providers to create and maintain effective oilfield health and safety programs that enforce a high standard for safety compliance so that their own performance metrics are not affected as a result of incidents on their sites.
What is important to know when developing HSE programs?
Develop the programs with the users in mind. There are certain OSHA requirements that must be adhered to, but the documentation should be written with terms that are familiar to the audience and should be easily accessible whenever needed. It’s important to involve the employees during the creation of these procedures as well because in many cases, the person writing the documentation is not on the floor or out in the field on a daily basis. While processes are written to instruct behavior, companies need to take into account that people are more willing to accept change when it minimally impacts their routine. So, make sure to design procedures with the employees at the forefront – after all, an oilfield health and safety program is only as effective as the people who use it.
Valiant Health and Safety Policy:
Valiant Artificial Lift Solutions is committed to maintaining an occupational health and safety program that provides the safest working environment possible for our employees and visitors. This will be accomplished through continually focusing on safety improvements and training and fulfilling our objectives as defined in our Health and Safety Program.