The oil and gas industry has achieved safety performance beyond most other industries. Yet, the journey from "good to great" safety management can create the foundation for great business performance.
The journey goes beyond technical excellence to cultural transformation. Leadership must build the case for becoming "great", and engage their workers to create a safety vision, understand barriers and co-lead implementation.
In recent years, the oil and gas industry has made significant improvement in safety performance. Leading players have reported Lost Time Injury Rates of less than 0.1 per 200,000 hours worked. For most companies, improved performance has been accomplished by improving the objective or technical aspects of safety and operating management systems. However, significant safety incidents and operational losses continue to occur at a time when the business and technical challenges facing the industry also are increasing.
For some companies, recent improvement in safety performance can create cultural inertia that inhibits the change required to achieve great or even world-class performance. These organizations need to understand the potential for additional business value that can result from great safety performance. Then, they can proactively and openly engage their workforce to shape their future vision for great safety within their organization.
Safety improvement is a matter of eliminating hazards and hence the probability that injuries and incidents will occur. In DuPont's long history of owning and operating large, complex and hazardous industrial assets, the large majority of injuries and incidents have been caused by the behavior of people - both business leaders and workers (i.e., employees, contractors). As a result, the role of business leaders is to create and continuously support conditions that foster workers' interest in behaving safely on a continuous and sustainable basis.
In some companies, safety is not managed or led as though it is a critical requirement for the success of the organization. Instead, safety can appear to be managed only for regulatory compliance or cost efficiency. Safety is set apart from the mainstream operation of the business, and responsibility for safety performance often is assigned to the safety organization. In this situation, business leaders often consider safety to be effective if employees and contractors comply with the safety rules. However, in DuPont's experience, companies in this situation have difficulty achieving or sustaining good safety performance.
In other cases, business leaders acknowledge that a minimum level of safety performance is necessary for acceptable business performance, and is an aspect of their company's values. However, in these cases, safety still may not be recognized as a major driver of leading business performance. Instead, these business leaders may seek to define an optimum point for investment in safety. However, by taking a conditional stance on safety, they demonstrate and tacitly communicate to their organization a belief that additional investment in safety yields diminishing returns. When companies have made significant improvement in their safety performance through investment in technical aspects of their operations management system, their greatest risk may be satisfaction with their progress to-date and a lack of passion to take their organization from good to great safety performance.
In DuPont's experience, a minority of companies view safety excellence as a foundation for broader business success. These companies think and talk about safety in terms of the competitive advantage for which safety provides a foundation. These companies thirst to better understand whether their safety management system is complete and state-of-the-art, and being implemented in a way that will drive superior results, continuous improvement and hence sustainability.