The oil and gas industry has a precarious relationship with safety. Negative PR, such as that surrounding several huge and life-costing pipeline explosions and the like in previous decades have lead to a lot of pressure. For the most parts, there have been improvements. In fact, the industry now boasts an injury and illness rate much lower than the average for U.S, workers in general. Unfortunately, that positiveness only goes so far – fatalities and life-changing incidents in the industry remain several times higher than that of the average worker.
So what can you do to promote safety? In the oil and gas industry, there are certain inherent risks that we minimize through technology, optimizations, safety gear, and procedural rules. The physical risks of the job, however, are all part of a broader “safety culture.” Safety culture goes beyond physical safeties and looks at how workers are behaving, how incidents are reported, if lines of communication are open, if the procedures you do have set in place are actually being followed, etc. In addition, safety culture is an overall attitude within a company that safety is a priority, and not just an annoyance that slows down work.
Learn to Lead
One of the best ways you can make others feel that safety is important is by making it apparent that you yourself have adopted that attitude. If managers and the higher ups in an operation seem annoyed by the paperwork, time, and procedure associated with safety, his or her employees are not going to think it’s a priority. In an industry with such a high mortality rate, it’s important to make sure that the right attitude is put on display.
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Make It A Given
Get in the thick of things and talk with employees up close and personal. One of the biggest problems in safety comes in the form of communication and reporting. Reporting percentages are linked to employee comfort with talking to their superiors and voicing their concerns. Talk to people, learn names, and spend a small portion of your day on these tasks… each and every day. Let people know that you really do want to hear what they have to say, and that the company’s concern about safety extends beyond some signs hanging around or posted up on a board, make it matter to you personally.
The reason this is so important is that “safety is number one” or “safety is the priority” are so overdone and ubiquitous with the workplace that they started to lose their effect almost as soon as they became standard refrains. The old adage that “actions speak louder than words” rings true here; anything you can do to demonstrate safety rather than talk about it is important. This also applies to training, don’t just list off rules and procedures, illustrate why safety is important with examples of past incidents and how they could have been avoided.
Once you’ve made safety relevant to yourself in your employees eyes, make it important for them too. A good way to do this is to reward workers when you witness safe behavior on the job. It is important that this is an active engagement and not just as “it’s been 30 days since the last accident!” type of thing. It’s been long known now that those types of statistics don’t actually tell you a whole lot about how safe your employees are being on the job.
If you personally are too busy to put these ideas into action, it may be wise to hire someone to be in charge of them full-time. The payoffs can far outweigh the costs of bringing another person onto the payroll if even just one incident is avoided.