Many of us who have interacted with senior executives from leading oil and gas companies over the last few years on the subject of HSE performance have observed a marked shift in their engagement on this aspect of their business performance. There seems to be a shared impression that HSE performance will have markedly increased impact on their businesses going forward. On the back of this very real concern, many are taking material actions to secure a step change in their safety and environmental performance: hiring respected mainstream operational personnel to lead their HSE function; investing in capacity/skills development for HSE professionals to increase their effectiveness in addressing the needs of the business; taking a hard look at the efficacy of established management and audit programs (too much paper, not enough results?); investing in information management systems so they can have access to real time reliable performance indicators; and, critically, initiatives to reduce accident statistics (especially focused on fatalities and contractors' activities) and deliver meaningful reductions in their environmental footprints.
Underpinning all of these actions is a clear sense that substantial, very well-intentioned activity and investment in HSE aspects of the business has not been hitting the mark and yielding too little return in terms of performance improvement. The very serious recent events on the US Gulf Coast and at a refinery in the US Pacific Northwest have added fuel to this fire. The need for approaches which will secure a step-change in performance on the front line in the global oil and gas industry has never been greater.
It is broadly accepted that accidents have their origin in behavioral dynamics. In addition, the linkage between behaviors of front line personnel (including design engineers) and the behaviors of their leaders up and down the line is well-understood.