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Burns: To achieve zero incidents, every single person must take responsibility

Posted on 25 September 2009

 Anyone whose mind has wandered during a task and wound up walloping his fingers with a hammer can appreciate the warning given by Mark Burns, president of Ensco Offshore International Co, in his opening-morning keynote to the 2009 IADC Drilling HSE Europe Conference & Exhibition, which convened 23-24 September in Amsterdam: Focus, pay attention and take responsibility for your own safety.

“Personal accountability is critical,” Mr Burns said. “If you are not focused 24 hours a day, you are going to have a lapse.”

HSE focus and execution through personal action, Mr Burns said, is the “last step in operational integrity.”

“This is a journey,” he remarked, “this dream of an accident-free workplace, but it can happen. Personal accountability is critical in this endeavor.”

The Bradley Curve shows the evolution of a safety culture.

Mr Burns encouraged the audience to build upon the successes that the industry has already achieved. Sharing safety-related information among companies is much improved over several years ago. The IADC Safety Alert program is testament to that. Through this program, IADC publishes, without citing the companies involved, actual accident details, benefiting other members who can use the information to avoid similar incidents.

But such sharing has not always been the rule. “We’ve come a long way,” Mr Burns said.

Other improvements in recent years, he added, include better reporting standards, improved relationship with regulators, comprehensive training, and industry commitment of CAPEX toward HSE. All this adds up to a continuing decline in incident rates.

 The dream of an accident-free workplace is not an impossible one, said Mark Burns, ENSCO.

Mr Burns used DuPont’s Bradley Curve to demonstrate the evolution of a safety culture. Progressively declining injury rates are evidenced as workers and organizations move from operating on raw natural instinct through supervision (dependence), to self-awareness (independent) and finally to teams (interdependent). In the final stage, team members help one another conform and represent one another’s “keeper.”

Nonetheless, he pointed out, the industry faces myriad challenges. As an older work force begins retiring, we are seeing the emergence of younger and less experienced people entering.

Another challenge is overconfidence and complacency. The most recent IADC safety statistics (for 2008) show that the highest rate of injuries is among workers with one to five years on the job – not the new-hires.

Finally, technology continues to change, our market will cycle, and emotional and mental fatigue is unavoidable.

“Focus, focus, focus,” Mr Burns said. “Everyone must be accountable.”

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