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Saltiel: A new safety language is on the horizon

Posted on 08 February 2011

Personal safety equipment has been a traditional focus of industry safety programs, but industry also must not take its eyes off of the big picture when it comes to safety.

Personal safety equipment has been a traditional focus of industry safety programs, but industry also must not take its eyes off of the big picture when it comes to safety.

Safety management in offshore drilling is moving beyond total recordable incidence rates to encompass a new lexicon of industry safety, said Rob Saltiel, president and CEO of Atwood Oceanics, in the keynote presentation at the IADC Health, Safety, Environment and Training Conference in Houston on 2 February. “I think that the traditional language of our industry has been around personal safety,” Mr Saltiel said. “There’s been a focus on PPE. There’s been a lot of emphasis on lost-time incidents, hand and finger injuries, dropped objects and stop work authority.”

One measure of the industry’s drilling safety progress is a nearly 80% improvement in total recordable incidence rates offshore in the past 10 years. “We’re not standing still,” he said. “We are taking proactive steps forward to make sure our industry is safer every day.”

Remarking on the events of 2010, Mr Saltiel said, “We are reminded that we still have a long way to go. We can’t as an industry focus too much on personal safety. But even as we focus on personal safety, the risk is that we take our eyes off of the big picture. I think that this is something that, as an industry, we absolutely have to guard against.” The new language of industry safety will include an HSE safety case, a well construction interface document, equipment testing and certification, competency assurance, major emergency management, regulatory oversight and intervention and rigorous management of change.

He went on to comment that there are lessons to be learned from other industries, in particular the outcomes of investigations into the US NASA Challenger and Columbia disasters. One key outcome of the investigations was the recognition of normalization of deviance, a long-term phenomenon in which individuals and teams accept a lower standard of performance until that lower standard becomes the norm.

The findings of the ingredients for the normalization of deviance apply to our industry as well. They include: “can do” attitude minimizes consideration of failure outcomes; past successes create a climate of complacency; known equipment defects are tolerated without intervention; near-misses prove robustness of system, not impending failures; pressure to operate is perceived by front-line teams; concerns about operations are shielded from top decision-makers.

“Our challenge in 2011 is to make sure that we’re on the lookout for these ingredients and to take active approaches to stamp them out,” Mr Saltiel said.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Aniruddha ( Pat) Pattnaik Says:

    Dear Editor,

    This is one of the most profound articles I have come across in recent times – Normalisation of Deviance.

    It is very akin to…tell a lie a thousand times…it becomes a truth!!

    Tremendous observation!

    Pay

  2. Bob Harrington Says:

    Good article, but saw no mention of the pressure from as you stated, top decision-makers to finish on time and under budget. After 40 years in the industry, mostly in drilling, the pressure from AFEs and “lowest bidder” syndrome has changed the game, specifically the numbers game. The “normalization of deviance” has become the standard when quality is not considered as a priority in competitive bidding of services.

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