Most of the information in this paper is wrong.
I don’t plan to waste your time - I believe that I have useful ideas here which could make a big contribution to offshore safety.
But when the CEO of a Norwegian oilfield services company once said to me last year that ‘most people are wrong most of the time' – I thought, well he’s right in the sense that I can’t think of anyone who is right most of the time - and so that probably goes for me, too.
And I also want to make the point that, as reflective individuals, we do have the capacity to train our egos - and if we believe that egos are the source of many obstacles to achieving safety, perhaps we can solve the problem at source.
To start explaining what I mean, I would like to tell you about some talks which were presented at a breakfast forum at Offshore Europe in September 2013, about 2 weeks after the Sumburgh helicopter disaster in Scotland when 4 people lost their lives.
The speakers included Martin Rune Pedersen, MD, Maersk Oil UK; Judith Hackitt CBE, Chair of the UK's Health and Safety Executive; Ian Sharp, Chief Operating Officer, Fairfield Energy.
Mr Pedersen of Maersk explained that every time a new drilling rig is brought to Maersk, the company organises two day workshops with with the drilling company staff, including with team building exercises and technical discussions. Maersk values ‘humbleness’, which it says is "about listening and learning and giving space to others." It also values what it calls ‘uprightness’ – where people stick to their word.
Judith Hackitt advocated a mindset of ‘constant unease’, which "means never thinking the problem is fixed," she said. "Constant unease means never being complacent, being prepared to ask hard questions, and not seeking reassurance from what you know is right."
Meanwhile Ian Sharp, Chief Operating Officer, Fairfield Energy, presented a result of a survey into worker engagement in the North Sea -which showed expected results on first glance, but when you look at it more deeply some questions emerge- for example, why do site leaders feel less personally engaged in the site’s safety culture than workers do?
I am trying to pull out a common thread between all of these points - that all speakers were actually focussing on ego - a main threat to safety - and how to stop it causing problems and help us work more intelligently.
The ego which tells us that everything is fine when it isn’t, the ego which stops us questioning too hard, and the ego which arises in difficult personal discussions when we get defensive talking to people we don’t know very well.