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Sharpe: Shell’s safety efforts zero in on dropped objects, land transport

Posted on 01 October 2010

Personal safety and well-related process safety were the core themes of the keynote address on the opening day of this year’s IADC Drilling HSE Europe Conference, 29-30 September in Amsterdam.

However, Peter Sharpe, executive VP wells at Shell International E&P, said he had selected the twin topics before the Macondo tragedy.

“The incident has influenced the message, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed it,” Mr Sharpe said.

Shell found that 50% of high-potential incidents in wells were related to dropped objects.

Shell found that 50% of high-potential incidents in wells were related to dropped objects.

Concentrating first on personal safety, he said Shell had changed the leadership focus from high-consequence, low-probability safety incidents to concentrating on the risk around personal safety.

“Through focusing on that risk, we’ve been able to produce some remarkable improvements in our safety,” he said.

“Shell has a programme called Goal Zero, and, over the past few years, it has led to a significant improvement in terms of the number of people who we hurt in our business. We’re at record lows.”

Mr Sharpe talked of an “unbelievably complex” safety management system that had made it very difficult for staff to comply.

That is why Goal Zero was created.

“It has 12 very simple rules, and what we say to people is, if you choose not to comply with these rules, you choose not to work for Shell.

“It has delivered a fundamental step-change in terms of the number of people we hurt. The fatal accident frequency at Shell took a remarkable drop.

“If you have complicated management systems, you really need to think how you can simplify so that people can understand, learn and comply with them.”

On the need to concentrate on incidents with the greatest potential for serious consequences, even fatalities, Mr Sharpe said he had turned his leadership focus toward this and away from routine LTIs, which was difficult because Shell used this as a metric for assessing his own performance against  the company’s lost-time incidents frequency total.

“What we came to realise at Shell was that while the total reportable case frequency was falling year on year, the fatal accident rate was not.

“It’s a question of where you focus leadership attention in terms of what you want to achieve in your business. As a senior leader, I focus on the high-potential areas when it comes to personal safety.

“I review all the potential fatalities from the high-potential incidents, and we now try to treat them all as if they were actual fatalities … putting the same level of investigation focus into them and ensuring that management systems follow-through is there to prevent any reoccurrence.

“We came to the realisation in the drilling and completions part of our business and well intervention, that we have two major risks … 50% of our potential fatalities came from dropped objects and 20% were related to land transport.

“We introduced dedicated programmes around both of these. There was an 80% reduction in the number of road transport fatalities, and we reduced the potential fatalities from dropped objects by more than 50%.

“All the leadership focus over the last year or two has been around these two areas. If this is our biggest potential killer, this is what I want to be spending my time on, and this is where we’re going to have our dedicated programmes.

“Does that mean we’ve had more hand and finger injuries? Does that mean we’ve had more slips, trips and falls? No it doesn’t.”

Turning to process safety, Mr Sharpe said this has been a leadership priority for years, especially post-Texas City and even more so since the Macondo tragedy.

“I have to admit that the wells process metrics have not been visible enough. Certainly the leading metrics will need to be further developed and made more visible, and we’re introducing a series of metrics in 2011 to try and help us increase our focus on process safety in wells.

“The management systems and metrics we have today are inadequate and do not lead to the right level of management focus in our business.”

Mr Sharpe told his audience: “I’ll challenge you as to whether a BOP failure or any single barrier failure in our drilling business is actually treated as a reportable incident in your management systems; whether in fact that leads to an investigation; whether you know the frequency of such incidents, and how that drives your behaviour as a senior leader in your company.”

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