By Welter Benicio

In 2001 I had the joy of moving from a small apartment to a large house. The family now had plenty of space, a backyard with a swimming pool, the possibility of adopting a dog and concerns with the safety of the small girls (I have 2 daughters). It was a two-story house, with stairs, a long balcony and a pool. My youngest daughter was less than 2 years old and monitoring her wobbling runs along the house, 24-7, was not practical. So, having no option, I started training her how to safely walk the stairs, how to avoid hazards in the balcony and covered the swimming pool, obviously.

10 years later the family was visiting a monument in Europe, going upstairs in a tight space and I could notice that as my daughters went up, they chatted to each other (girls do talk a lot!), but the youngest one never let her right hand go off the handrail, just as she was taught years before. The act was automatic, like it was prompted by instinct. I laughed to myself and was immediately remitted to my days offshore, when I had to live and breathe safety and where I learned valuable lessons that I carry for life.

The experience above is just a personal, simple, although remarkable, example of how the oil and gas industry can contribute to the improvement of the safety of individuals in their personal lives or as members of organizations operating in any industry. Actually, my experience and what I observed along the years showed me that the oil & gas industry has a lot to contribute in how to handle safety in the organizations and how to improve the statistics in all levels (hazards, near misses, first aids, recordables, lost time accidents or LTA’s and fatalities).

Starting by the level of focus of safety programs, for example, I have seen cases in other industries where a lot of energy, management time and money is still dedicated to the recordables and even LTA’s, neglecting the importance of focusing on the lower levels of the pyramid (please refer to the levels of the safety pyramid. Some versions are: H.W. Heinrich’s 1931, Frank E. Bird Jr.’s 1969 and ConocoPhillips’ 2003) in order to allow the identification and implementation of true and efficient preventive actions.

I have also seen:

  • Methods for accident investigation and their reporting whose established root causes stop at the 1 or 2 why;
  • Surprised faces when asked about the protocol of communication of accidents and near misses, or about the procedure for evacuation of injured employees in remote locations;
  • Hydrostatic pressure tests done without any protection or isolation, on the basis that the use of “inelastic fluids” in these tests exempt them from the use of mechanical barriers;
  • A reference by managers and supervisors to HSE professionals when asked about their plant tours and reporting of hazards, with an assertive assignment of the discipline “safety” to the HSE experts;
  • The definition of acceptable targets for LTA’s or fatalities, on the basis that they represented an outstanding improvement over previous years (can even 1 fatality be acceptable?);
  • The lack of HSE as a theme in the staff meetings;
  • No safety dialogs, even in manufacturing environments;

These are only some examples of the deficiencies I witnessed elsewhere. They indicated, again, that we can share a lot of our experiences with our colleagues from other industries, and the fact that I was able to identify them confirmed to me that my indoctrination was successful. It was so successful that I cannot escape from being called a safety freak by my daughters, when I tell them how to store the knives in the kitchen or when they noticed my anguish when we went to a concert by Maroon 5 with some other 30,000 teens. Well, it seems I am indeed a healthy (and safety) freak.