Do a search on the word, “culture” and odds are something like this Forbes blog post excerpt called “How to Build a Great Company Culture,” will appear on the screen:
“Culture is shaped mostly by how your leaders act, so make sure your leadership team embodies the type of company you want to be.”
Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta
Texas CEO roundtable sponsor Texas Mutual Insurance Company, joining with Scott Safety at their training facility in Houston, brought experts in oilfield and oil rig safety to a conversation on controlling accidents, bringing down the cost of premiums and creating a safety culture.
What does a safety culture look like and how does it behave? Bill Luther, Safety Services Consultant at Texas Mutual Insurance, sees the decades-long culture of
management intimidation in the oilfields beginning to recede somewhat in favor of a safety culture.
Others agree – leaving intimidation and developing a safety culture begins with leading by example. “If you’re in a meeting, you’re going to watch how your manager acts. If he’s on his phone and not paying attention to the safety presentation, nobody in the room is going to do that, either,” observed Sam Bowen Jr. of Bowen, Miclette & Britt Insurance.
But too often as Chris Dooley. CEO of Dooley Tacaberry, noted, “If the boss isn’t walking around with safety glasses, or walks in at 9 a.m., what do the workers think? You have to practice what you preach.”
For John Stephens, a member of the Safety Committee of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, the key players are not only the top leadership, they’re also middle management and the front line supervisors because, “Safety needs to go all the way through – the employee has a tough time when the manager doesn’t follow it.”
Another element of building a safety culture is dealing with complacency by holding people accountable – management and employees.
James Hernholm has seen a big behavior shift in accountability because of what happened in the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City. “Alarms were disabled and there were no wires attached to the gas detectors on the wall because they became tired of listening to the alarms,” Hernholm stated. Fifteen people died and 150 were seriously injured, and as a result, new safety guidelines were enacted. “For that cultural change, you need to teach, talk and train,” he said.
Monica Stefanini, Safety & Compliance Director at Hawkins Lease Service, has stopped jobs where she sees employees behaving unsafely. “If I see something that’s not right – and I have done it – I will stop the job,” she said. Stefanini had one new employee on the job for two days who didn’t want to wear his FRC’s – flame-resistant clothing – and was swinging a machete while cleaning up weeds. She stopped the crew and pulled him off the job. Stefanini is empowered by her owner to act.
“That says a lot about the owner of your company and his culture on safety. If your owner lets you pull unsafe employees off the job, that’s very powerful,” observed Dooley.
For Steve Hahn, Global Services Manager/Flame & Gas Detection at Scott Safety, safety depends on location. Offshore facilities are geared more toward safety, he said. In the ship channel, onsite training is necessary and in Wyoming, companies are punching holes in the ground as fast as they can, and Hahn says there is a battle of revenue versus safety.
So does Chris Dooley. “When you look at some companies who operate only from the top down, they only manage the bottom line. If the people at the top reinforce the safety culture, it works – if they don’t, it doesn’t happen.”
Steve Hahn handles site visits, and while most companies keep their gas detection equipment maintained, he’s been told by clients not to touch anything because it’s working perfectly and never goes off. “It never goes off because the sensors are depleted and it doesn’t work,” said Hahn. “Gas detection is as good as the last person who did the calibration.”
Texas Mutual is seeing companies put more gas detection systems on rigs in fixed systems, as well as personal gas monitors on employees, and instituting changes in procedures when the alarm goes off. Still, when the alarm does go off, some employees don’t understand what parts per million is being registered for H2S – hydrogen sulfide. (H2S is a colorless gas with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs; it is heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive.) For most, best practices are going to involve more education.
Sometimes more education comes from the larger companies who expect their smaller contractors to perform a JSA – job safety analysis. JSAs identify the dangers involved in specific tasks in order to reduce the risk of injury to workers. Some elements of a JSA involve detection, alarms, tool boxes, and safety meetings.
“Training and education never stops,” said Monica Stefanini.
John Stephens has worked extensively on developing a Short Service Employee Program because, “The employees who are at the highest degree of risk for injuries and fatalities are those with less than one year experience – and the very new ones with less than a month experience are at the highest degree of risk.” The Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) has found that one-third of fatalities occur within the first three months of service, and two-thirds occur within the first year.
An organizational structure is critical for new employees. There should be standard procedures for training and then follow up with employees who have been through training to make sure they really do understand what has been taught. Too often, employees are hit with too much, all at once, and they may think they tool pushers available, somebody will often call a friend of a friend of a friend to go to work. In this case, there’s no drug screening, no application process and no training.
To help companies work with short service workers, TXOGA produces a quarterly report with recommended practices and identifies available resources for small companies.
Why Safety Programs Fail
Everyone at the table agreed that a safety program is not worth the paper it’s written on if it’s not being used and reinforced. “This customer has a $1 million claim because a new employee went into a compliant space and lit a cigarette,” said John Calvert, Senior Safety Services Specialist. When Calvert asked why the employee did that, the answer was, “We thought he got his new employee training on entering a compliant space.” Instead, the employee went into the space without the gas levels being checked, without the right gear, no helpers, and no hole watch, because he didn’t get his training when going through onboarding.
Safety programs fail because people don’t follow the safety policy.
Sam Bowen Jr. gets the call for help from companies when see their premiums go up. “That’s when they ask to see the safety guys and it always starts with the owner of the company,” he said.
Safety materials are available on www.worksafetexas.com
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