Enhancing Oil & Gas Safety Culture by Affecting Human Experience

OnePetro - April 2018
By: Shawn M. Galloway

Highly pressurized hydrocarbon systems, heavy equipment, constantly changing environments, sweltering temperatures and rough terrain, remote locations with complex logistics — this isn't a scene from your favorite space flick, just your typical oil and gas operations. These characteristics underscore the industry's inherent safety risks, and with the recent uptick in U.S. onshore drilling, more operators are re-evaluating their safety capabilities. While organizations use safety KPIs to grade their safety performance, these numbers are usually influenced by a myriad of factors - location, job type, formation, hydrocarbon type (oil, gas, condensate), equipment, service provider, and procedures - but they don't tell the whole story.

In her 2011 testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources on risk management in offshore oil and gas, MIT professor Nancy Leveson stated that "flaws in safety culture" is the leading cause of major incidents in the oil and gas industry1. A 2013 Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority article echoed her assertion, stating, "increased knowledge of the interaction between technical and organizational elements - and the people using these - is crucial in understanding the underlying causes of incidents."2 Although safety in the oil and gas industry is driven by multiple factors, it is clear from industry experts and incident data that the key factor influencing an organization's safety performance is people and the culture they operate in. To move the needle with a company's safety performance, you have to affect the hearts of its people through its safety culture.

At the core, organizational culture is enhanced by the way its key assets (people) are engaged, led, communicated with, and incentivized — in other words, by affecting the human experience. An organization's safety culture is a microcosm of the overall culture, with a more heightened and critical lens because of the direct impact on people's health, well-being and lives. Statoil's Development & Production USA Business Area (DPUSA) came to this realization during a review of their safety program in early 2017. The organization had grown through acquisitions over the past several years and had the challenge of ensuring safety excellence while integrating the employee and contractor workforce into the broader organization.

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