Operators 'must avoid tick-box safety'

Safety check: Lists alone cannot make safe environment, conference hears

International regulators and operators need to guard against implementing overly complex and detailed procedures as their review their oilfield safety regimes because “ticking boxes doesn’t make you safe”, delegates to a global oil conference has been told.

Overly extensive procedures risk creating an atmosphere where responsibilities are unclear and workers are more concerned with fulfilling requirements such as completing lengthy checklists as they perform their work rather than achieving good performance, the conference heard.

“The danger with paper is people tick the boxes and people somehow believe that that has made them safe,” Simon Durkin, vice president of Safety, environment and social performance at Shell Netherlands told the 21 World Petroleum Congress in Moscow.

“Ticking boxes doesn’t make you safe,” he added.

Any good safety system needs to be “self-critical” and over-complex requirements should be screened out in that process, said Sigve Knudsen, executive vice president, Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway.

But there is also danger in not requiring strict adherence to safety checklists, Durkin warned, explaining that a past fatal accident at Shell’s Salym Petroleum joint venture was in part due to a written “deviation” from accepted practice.

“People write deviations and get them approved and they think that somehow that has changed the situation and made them safe,” Durbin said.

It is also important to drive safety culture past the grandiloquent statements made by executives at conferences and get it engrained into the minds of the workers and contractors that are completing dangerous tasks on the ground.

“To me getting it down to the hands on people on the worksite is the most important because those are the people that get injured not the ones at the office,” Chayong Borisuitsawat, acting senior vice president, safety, security, health and environment for Thailand’s PTTEP said.

“For people working in safety (that) is the question because 75% of our workforce on any given day is contractors,” Burbin said. “How you get into the culture of the contractor workforce is the critical issue.”

Shell has implemented a system of 12 “life-saving” rules that can be applied across its different business units and operating areas.

“We were I think or possibly are or historically have been quite a complicated company in terms of procedures and processes,” Durbin said. “Actually the guy on the ground at the work place he just needs to know clearly – and very clearly – what is it he needs to and how is it he needs to do it.”

Borisuitsawat also pointed out that operators need to be prepared to reach out to contractors to instill a safety culture in different ways when they are working across a range of cultures and geographies.

He gave the example of working in Australia, where contractors have more experience pursuing safe operations versus Myanmar, where there local contractors have less experience working with international oil companies.

“It’s about awareness and knowledge,” he said. “It’s different from place to place.”

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