CATEGORIZED | 2008, January/February

INTEQ takes unique approach to improving long-term safety behaviour

Posted on 29 October 2009

By Joe Greener and Tracey Adam, with contributions from Kenneth Lang and Jack Hinton, INTEQ

Despite a number of significant improvements in engineering controls that previously resulted in reduced injury rates, recent statistics from the UK Health and Safety Executive demonstrate that further improvements are still needed.

There is a recognised downward trend in fatal and major injuries to offshore workers within the UK sector of the North Sea. However, the number of reported over-three-day injuries increased in 2007 by 39 to 164 (31.2%).

Based on the increased workforce figure of more than 28,000 workers, the over-three-day injury rate shows a 7.4% increase from that recorded for 2005/06 (584.1 per 100,000 workers, compared with 541.8 per 100,000). The over-three-day injury rate, which has shown a fairly level trend since 2002/03, rose slightly in 2006/07.

It is believed that a behavioural approach to occupational health and safety offers an opportunity for further improvement and will help drive a sustained downward trend in injury.

Step Change in Safety is an UK-based partnership with the goal of making the UK the safest oil and gas exploration and production province in the world by 2010. It is charged with achieving this vision through cooperation and sharing. The Step Change in Safety partnership acts as a conduit to improve safety performance across the industry, and, in 2005, launched the Personal Responsibility for

Safety (PRFS) programme as one strand of that drive.

This article provides details as to how INTEQ, a division of Baker Hughes, moved the key elements of Personal Responsibility for Safety from the paper-based work pack to an innovative programme to engender change.

What is PRFS?

The PRFS programme was designed, in the words of the PRFS working party, to “assist us to achieve an advanced safety culture” by “getting everyone, regardless of position, to work safely, look after themselves, their colleagues and others, and always intervene when unsafe behaviours or conditions are observed.”

A key tenet of PRFS was that the individual had to be engaged in all nine key elements. These elements would allow change of behaviour to occur in a structured way. It was recognized that the change in behaviour would not be achieved in a short timescale but as an evolutionary process over a longer period of time.

The package provided by Step Change on PRFS is composed of a template of ideal behaviours that both the individual and the organization can assess their performance against—leading to self evaluation and improvement.

NINE REQUIREMENTS

The elements are divided in two distinct parts of guidance. As PRFS is about personal behaviours, the first covers the personal aspects. However, as individuals do not work in isolation, the second part identifies the system requirements to support the individual.

The system requirements are as follows:

1. Clear expectations.

2. Effective communication.

3. Personal leadership.

4. Evaluation.

5. Personal risk awareness.

6. Planning.

7. The right and duty to intervene.

8. Accountability.

9. Develop Safe HABITS.

Engaging with theatre

INTEQ’s fundamental goal was to target a group of leaders in the organization and motivate them to improve their personal responsibility for safety through recognizing a need in themselves. It was believed that by targeting leaders, improvements could be more readily driven into the organizational culture.

Additionally, a conventional programme launch was not wanted as it was recognized that PRFS offered a unique opportunity to challenge the organization. Although multiple ideas were considered, INTEQ decided to use a live theatre company with a customized drama for the launch.

The use of drama to tell stories and engage the audience is well accepted. Whether theatre is used for political or social issues or merely entertainment, it is recognized that good theatre provides a very strong method of engaging the audience and allows the issues to be played out in a non-threatening but still challenging and engaging way to reflect real-life situations.

To set the scene, each participant was invited by a senior member of staff to attend an assessment for a critical business project. At this stage, the assessment and invitation were specifically designed so the participant did not know it was directly related to safety. On arrival, the participant was introduced to a third-party consultant and was asked to observe the theatre production and undertake an assessment of what they saw and heard during the session. This “consultant” was in fact part of the theatre troupe.

The written assessment was developed using the PRFS model and the theatre storyline. This was marked in the training room by the independent theatre team against the nine PRFS elements. The marking scheme was developed directly from the personal safety matrix.

After the theatre pieces:

a) A “member” of the audience introduced the fact that the exercise was about safety behaviour.

b) The actors returned to the room and, remaining in character, explained their role. This included where they had failed in their personal responsibilities or where they exhibited their behaviour and demonstrated their emotions.

c) The participants were asked to rank their perceived behaviour (as a percentage). This was then compared against their independently assessed score.

The results were shared with the group and, without exception, showed the group’s self-perception was higher than the assessed score, i.e., people believed their behaviour was better when it came to safety than it actually was when measured objectively.

This measure was exactly what INTEQ believed was at the nub of stimulating behavioural change and suggested that if participants were comfortable in their safety behaviours, then they were not consistently motivated to improve their performance. The challenge then became how to address such an issue in order to achieve a step change in performance.

THE NEXT STAGE

INTEQ continued with the interactive, challenging format to maintain engagement and subjectively cause individuals to relate their own common behaviours for each of the elements. We avoided holding sessions in the usual meeting room setting with PowerPoint presentations. Instead, meetings were held in different settings and used other industries and organisations to share their experiences. This resulted in a move from lectures to a process of self-discovery.

To begin the process, we needed a measure of where individuals stood in order to rate their strengths and weaknesses. This also served as a benchmark with which to measure change and the success of the programme. Each participant was asked to rate their personal performance against the Personal Maturity Matrix within the PRFS pack.

In order to ensure a long-term focus and facilitate lasting change, INTEQ focused on one element per quarter.

ELEMENT 1 – EXPECTATIONS

The first event was held at the local football (soccer) stadium (Pittodrie, home of Aberdeen Football Club). The sporting analogy related to setting goals and working as a team to achieve them.

The session started out on the pitch with a discussion of the expectations placed on the professional footballer. The group then moved to the changing rooms for a discussion on PRFS.

It was explained that it takes the skills of all the team members (including support staff, trainers and even groundsmen) to achieve the final aim of winning the game and not conceding any goals. Participants discussed setting their own business or team goals, communicating them and also how to live up to the standards we expect from others.

Prior to this session, we spoke with some of the participant’s direct reports to find out how good they were at setting expectations. These honest yet anonymous statements were shared at the session to allow the individuals to personally assess their own behaviours without the need to lecture to them on how to improve.

The session as each attendee was asked to form action and coping plans relating to the topic. The action plans were to include something they do well and an area for improvement. Participants were paired up so they had a peer to discuss and share their progress with.

To further support the behaviour change, participants were e-mailed with weekly reminders to re-state their action plans, detail how they achieved their goals that week and examine what they could have done better.

According to psychology theories, for behaviour to change, an intention has to be formed beforehand. However, even the best intentions can sometimes be overrun by habitual behavioural. Research demonstrates that forming action plans leads to more successful behaviour change than merely forming a goal intention as they focus attention, perception and memory.

Still, an action plan can be overrun by unexpected occurrences. To reduce that potential, coping plans can be made. By anticipating barriers to the desired behaviour and by preparing coping strategies, action plans are more likely to be successful. The use of weekly reminders and action/coping plans has been proven to make behaviour change even longer lasting.

Finally, as behaviour change is a slow and gradual process, participants were given several months to establish and practice the new behaviours. This facilitated the new behaviours becoming habitual before further PRFS modules were introduced.

ELEMENT 2 – COMMUNICATION

This was hosted at Scottish TV (STV), the local area TV network. Communication experts, such as the production staff and presenters were invited. The head of news and current affairs introduced the session and shared stories demonstrating that communication is not just about what you say but also what you don’t say. Like the offshore industry, STV has similar issues of dealing with people in remote locations — it has personnel working in all corners of Scotland, and face-to-face communication is difficult. There can be a reliance on telephone and e-mail.

The attendees then participated in a news-reading session in the studio. This highlighted the body language and presentation side of communication. Each participant received a photo sitting in the news hot seat, which they could display in the workplace as a reminder of the day and also of their action/coping plans for the next few months.

ELEMENT 3 – LEADERSHIP

The most recent element introduced was leadership. This event was hosted by the Gordon Highlanders Museum, one of the most famous regiments in the British Army. Leadership is synonymous with the army, and retired officers shared their experiences with INTEQ’s management team during a tour of the museum. One officer commented that being a good leader means having the respect of your team even when having to make difficult decisions and, above all, being able to socialise with them afterwards.

Again, participants were asked to look at their own behaviors and to set up personal action/coping plans.

CONCLUSION

Although INTEQ is still in the initial stages of the programme, we have already seen positive outcomes. First, individuals recognised the gap in their perceived PRFS behaviour versus actual behaviour. This encouraged improvement and positively influenced their direct reports.

Managers also have become more effective at communicating at all levels, whether discussing goals and expectations or risk awareness.
Through the program, INTEQ has found the natural link from one element to another. When participants are challenged to set expectations, this naturally led to them thinking about how they communicated these expectations. They also began to think more about leading by example and engaging in leadership.

INTEQ remains committed to the programme to see long-term change and are encouraged by the results so far. Unique, challenging scenarios will continue to be used to progress through the elements.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Aberdeen Football Club, the PRFS working party of STEP Change, the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Graham Read and Scottish Television (Aberdeen), Livewire Theatre (Vanessa Chew) and the staff of Baker Hughes.

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