Recent studies have shown that, while the incident rates of less serious injuries are still being reduced, serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) in many industries are declining at a much slower rate (Manuele, 2008; Krause, 2012). In some industries, the rate of reduction is non-existent, and has been for some years.
One of the fundamental "truths" in modern safety management was that, by focusing on minor injury reduction, we could equivalently reduce incidents that resulted in serious injuries and fatalities: the famous "Heinrich Triangle" (Heinrich, 1931; Bird & Germain, 1985). Incident occurrence data and research over the last few years disproves this theory (Anderson & Denkl, 2010; Manuele, 2011; Krause, 2012).
This contradiction with traditional safety thinking has identified a necessity to approach serious injury and fatality causes differently than those that result in less serious outcomes. One industry that has made inroads into identifying and applying different techniques in serious injury and fatality prevention is in upstream oil and gas exploration, namely the geophysical exploration industry.
This paper will describe how the contractor and client sides of the geophysical industry have systematically shared incident information for over 60 years, developing solutions based on the shared learnings and the resulting outcomes, which have had an impact on serious injuries and fatalities across the industry.
Geophysical surveys are used to study the earth's crust to identify structures and traps in the rock where oil and gas might accumulate. The most common geophysical survey technique is the reflection seismic method, often just called "seismic." Seismic uses knowledge of earthquakes and wave theory to estimate the properties of the earth's subsurface by creating a measureable soundwave on the surface, and then detecting and measuring the reflected waves as they reflect back from the subterranean structures. The process is effectively creating and measuring earth echoes (Dragoset, 2005); an energy source creates the soundwave on the surface, and sensitive receivers laid out over a vast area listen for and record the "echo." Over time and with repetition, an image of the earth's subsurface is developed.