20 Best practices from the oil & gas industry

It’s an understatement to say in the past few years the oil and gas industry – both “upstream” in exploration and drilling operations, and “downstream” in refining processes – has gone through formidable safety challenges and traumatic safety-related incidents. Today, major oil and gas multinationals are among the most transparent of any enterprises in sharing safety and health lessons learned and best practices, as the industry strives to achieve and maintain the public trust necessary to pursue sources of energy. Here are 20 best practices – some of which you might find applicable to your own operations.

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1 Click it

Vehicle crashes are the single largest cause of fatalities to workers in the oil and gas industry, making up four out of every ten fatalities in the industry. In about half of the cases, the victims were not wearing seat belts. Something as simple as ensuring all occupants buckle up when traveling in vehicles could significantly lower injury and fatality statistics.



2 Pre-screen employers

Many oil and gas companies evaluate and screen relevant skill levels and experience of prospective employees early in the recruiting process. Screening can include questions that identify candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to workplace safety in the past, and who have demonstrated previous on-the-job safe behaviors. Whether a candidate cares about safety on the job – both his and his co-workers – can be based on assessments provided by previous co-workers and managers.

3 Leadership

Research into safety shows that an uninvolved and passive safety leadership style has a negative impact on employee safety compliance and safety participation behavior. Being an active and effective safety leader means constantly promoting safety – not occasionally or periodically. Leaders must be consistent and predictable in their approach to safety. They need to have an active engagement with employees about safety.

4 Train safety leaders

About 9,500 attendees have taken part in BP’s capability development programs on safety and operations each year. These include the Operations Academy, an advanced program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that provides senior operating leaders with skills and tools to run operations safely and reliably. “Leaders in the Field” provides practical, site-based training for leaders in effective engagement with staff to ensure safe operations.  “Operating Essentials” are interactive, cross-functional  programs and workshops covering specific aspects of operating such as process safety and risk assessment.

5 Healthy workplaces

BP’s “Run-A-Muck” fitness campaign aims to encourage participants to look for opportunities to introduce, maintain or increase the amount of physical activity they undertake on a day-to-day basis. The challenge is open to BP employees, contractors, family and friends, who join forces in teams of ten to look for ways to include physical activity in their daily routine. In 2013, more than 5,000 people from 30 countries participated.

6 Contractor safety

BP seeks to set out clear and consistent expectations of its contractors. In BP’s upstream business, its standard model contract includes safety, health, security and environment requirements. In some cases, bridging documents are needed to define how BP’s safety management system and that of its contractors co-exist to manage risk on the work site. Contractors involved in potentially  high-consequence activity in BP’s upstream business, such as work on rigs and offshore installations, demand high scrutiny. This includes pre-contract quality, technical and health, safety, security and environment audits carried out on a risk-prioritized basis. Governance boards review and endorse sourcing of all significant potentially high-consequence activity contracts. Standard performance metrics are written into contracts that cover areas such as safety, quality and continuous improvement. Metrics are tracked and discussed during regular performance review meetings.

7 Safety culture

Chevron has spent more than 20 years building its culture of safety, based on the premise that incidents are preventable and that zero incidents is achievable. Chevron’s safety culture includes starting meetings with safety lessons, tracking and awarding business units for strong safety performance, sharing best practices and lessons learned throughout the company, and using behavior-based safety evaluations. Since 2003, Chevron has prohibited talking or using cellphones or electronic devices while driving a company vehicle or driving on company business. Based on location and type of vehicle driven, Chevron requires its workforce to complete specific driving training.

8 Emergency preparedness

In 2013, ConocoPhillips conducted four major emergency preparedness response exercises on three continents. About 1,000 people participated in these large-scale exercises, including the ConocoPhillips Global Incident Management Assist Team (GIMAT). Drills often include participation by third-party experts, oil spill response organizations, and government emergency response agencies. GIMAT also undertook a week of specialized training during 2013. The 125 GIMAT participants worked side by side with an international oil spill response company and local regulators, sharing best practices and honing skills.

9 Exposure assessment

ConocoPhillip has a process for identifying, evaluating and controlling workplace hazards. The core of the process is the requirement for each business unit to develop and implement an Exposure Assessment Plan (EAP) for employees and contractors. The EAP identifies chemical and non-chemical risks that workers may be exposed to during daily work. Sampling performed under an EAP focuses efforts on minimizing exposure risks to both workers and the community. Occupational health and industrial hygiene performance metrics are used to continually evaluate processes. Metrics measure the effectiveness of chemical risk identification processes, associated protection measures, and medical surveillance of worker health.

10 Keep it simple

ExxonMobil Pipeline Company’s safety and health performance goal is simple: “Nobody Gets Hurt.” To achieve this vision, the company’s safety policy states: “All employees/contractors are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace. Safety procedures are not to be compromised to achieve other goals. Operations and maintenance activities will be carried out in accordance with established safety practices, rules and regulations. Chemical substance abuse involving alcohol and/or drugs will not be tolerated. Off the job safety awareness for employees and their families will be encouraged.”

11 Management systems

ExxonMobil uses a system called the Operations Integrity and Management System (OIMS) to guide every operating decision made on a daily basis. OIMS consists of 11 separate elements: 1) Management leadership, commitment and accountability; 2) Risk assessment and management; 3) Facilities design and construction; 4) Information/documentation; 5) Personnel and training; 6) Operations and maintenance; 7) Management of change; 8)Third-party services; 9)  Incident investigation and analysis; 10) Community awareness and emergency preparedness; and 11) Operations integrity assessment and improvement.

12 Management of change

ExxonMobil’s process for managing change addresses: authority for approval of changes; analysis of operations integrity implications; compliance with standards and regulations; acquisition of needed permits; documentation, including reason for change; communication of risks associated with the change and required mitigation measures; time limitations; and training.

13 Maintenance

ExxonMobil’s operating, maintenance and inspection procedures include, where appropriate, special procedures for activities with potentially high risk; operating envelope considerations; regulatory and environmental aspect considerations; and human factors considerations. A work permit process incorporates checks and authorizations that are consistent with mechanical and operational risks. Temporary disarming, deactivation or unavailability of critical equipment is managed. Critical equipment is identified and tested, and it undergoes preventive maintenance. Mechanical integrity programs are in place and stewarded to assure the testing, inspection and maintenance of equipment. Interfaces between operations are assessed and procedures are in place to manage identified risks.

14 Fire safety

In 2013, Saudi Aramco unveiled its “Smoke Detector Awareness Campaign” aimed at increasing the installation and use of smoke detectors. The campaign was conducted in three shopping malls, in Dhahran, Riyadh and Jiddah, with each campaign consisting of both a theatre performance and viewer interaction stage. There were more than 260,500 attendees from around the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and more than 25,000 smoke detectors were distributed.

15 Wellness

Saudi Aramco states that “Our business ambitions cannot be achieved without a healthy work culture and high-performance workforce.” Saudi Aramco’s “Wellcare” program has measurably improved its business competitiveness through productivity gains arising from improved employee health status, the company states. The program consists of online and on-site health improvement and injury prevention resources, physical activity classes, lifestyle and wellness coaching courses, health screening clinics, healthy lifestyle modification classes and injury prevention programs. Management teams nominate wellness “champions” who complete a four-day certification program and attend an annual conference. Saudi Aramco estimates “Wellcare” has led to a cost avoidance of $3.5 million between 2005-2011 through a reduction in health risks and increased physical activity. It has also benefited employee job satisfaction, work engagement, stress management and productivity, according to the company.

16 Cardinal rules

Shell Global has 12 mandatory “Life-Saving” rules for all employees and contractors. They are: 1) Work with a valid permit when required; 2) Conduct gas tests when required; 3) Verify isolation before work begins and use the specified life protection equipment; 4) Obtain authorization before entering a confined space; 5) Obtain authorization before overriding or disabling safety critical equipment; 6) Protect yourself against a fall when working at heights; 7) Do not walk under a suspended load; 8) Do not smoke outside designated smoking areas; 9) No alcohol or drugs while working or driving; 10) While driving, do not use your phone and do not exceed speed limits; 11) Wear your seat belt; and 12) Followed prescribed journey management plan. If employees break the rules, they face disciplinary action up to termination of employment. Contractors can be removed from the site and barred from future work with Shell.

17 Safety days

Shell holds annual global safety days with its employees and contractors to strengthen its safety culture. In 2014, the safety day theme was “Take time for safety.” Around the world, employees and contractors took part in events, sharing ideas and best practices. Collectively, they reaffirmed their commitment to building a “Goal Zero” culture. Using a “virtual wall,” they could also write a personal pledge for everyone to see.

18 Road safety

In Turkey, Shell uses a traveling road show with a mobile health clinic taking vital health checks and safety information to truck drivers who may be unaware of the personal risks they face. Surprises such as horse-drawn carts or cars without headlights at night can pose risks. The number of road deaths in Turkey is ten times higher than in France or Germany. A seven-vehicle convoy of doctors, safety experts, and other professionals travelled to 17 events at service stations in ten cities across Turkey. It was the first time truckers in Turkey had the chance to visit road safety booths and demonstrations and take advantage of free vision, hearing and health check-ups at truck stops.

19 Industrial theatre

At Shell’s giant energy project, the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, industrial theatre was used to drive home safety messages. Under the desert sun, workers in hard hats and coveralls gathered beneath a scaffold jutting about 40 feet into the sky. Suddenly, a human shape hurtled down from above, landing with a sickening thud amplified by nearby microphones. When the mannequin hit, a collective gasp went up. The dramatic exercise emphasized the potentially gruesome consequences of failing to use a safety harness when working high above the ground. For a workforce comprised of people from more than 60 countries and speaking at least as many languages, the sight and sound of a man-sized dummy crashing to the ground broke through communication barriers.

20 Checks and balances

Checks and Balances is one of five current focus areas for safe, reliable and efficient operations at BP. Checks and Balances is about inspection, checking, auditing — what BP calls “assurance.” States BP: “When it comes to safety, as long as you are careful to maintain clear accountabilities and a clear sense of ownership by decision-makers, two heads can be better than one and three can be better than two. So BP has a three-tier approach to assurance. The line, which is accountable for safety, conducts self-verification to confirm whether it is conforming to the operating management system, and to confirm that their barriers are robust, and to enable them to take action if they are not. Second, the Safety and Operational Risk organization (S&OR) provides targeted, risk-based assurance by checking to see how the line is meeting requirements and maintaining and operating barriers. S&OR, staffed by hundreds of professionals whose focus is on safety and operational risk, does not absolve line managers of responsibility for safety and operational risk. BP makes it clear that the line is accountable for safety. S&OR helps them manage the risks effectively and conducts risk-based assurance. The third assurance tier is the audit. In addition to BP’s internal audit team, the company has an audit team inside S&OR and conducts a risk-based program of regular safety and operations audits of the businesses operating on BP’s operating management system. BP also audits third-party rigs and ships to check that they meet BP’s applicable standards.

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