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Implementing an effective Safety Improvement Process

By Ronnie Kallus, Jr., Sr. Risk Control Consultant

Safety programs can be effective in making workplace environments safer for employees. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers often find changes made to improve workplace safety and health can result in significant improvements to their organization’s productivity and financial performance. But changing human behavior can be challenging.

Despite advances in workplace safety, changing human behavior remains one of the most challenging aspects of safety programs. In response to the need to modify behaviors, companies have developed behavior-based safety (BBS) programs. A properly developed, implemented and stewarded BBS program has the ability to change behaviors in a positive manner for the Oil & Gas industry. Because Oil & Gas employees are often in remote locations with minimal supervision and constantly changing hazards, a formal Safety Improvement Process (SIP) which incorporates behavioral based safety, can impact safe work practices. 

The proper SIP process involves:

  • Commitment by senior management;
  • Required training and pre-work planning for all personnel involved on a job to implement the process;
  • Job Safety Analyses that define the way a job should be done, the potential hazards, and safe work practices that should be followed to avoid potential injury;
  • Prior to beginning a task, all potential hazards should be defined. Some of these hazards include electrical, pressure, heat/cold, chemical, biological, radiation, sound, gravity/stored energy and motion. Once these hazards are recognized, the hazard should be controlled through means such as removing the energy source, preventing the release of energy, protecting assets from the release and using Stop Work Authority (SWA).

Several aspects of a properly implemented SIP include:

  • Training for all staff on their roles and responsibilities within the SIP;
  • Empowering employees to utilize SWA throughout the job with full management and co-worker support;
  • Management has been trained to make positive, constructive safety observations, as well as giving immediate feedback on safe work practices; and
  • Track results of the observations to promote positive changes.

The properly stewarded SIP includes:

  • Strong root cause analysis and investigations, and implementing corrective measures to correct the physical, human and/or systemic root cause(s) of accidents;
  • On-going feedback on the program progress communicated to all employees; and
  • On-going continued process improvements.

The SIP is a positive process, designed to “catch” employees doing it right, and to give them a “pat on the back” for their contribution to your safety success. The SIP should also contain the following best practices:

Hazard Recognition and Control – Hazard Recognition and Control focuses on how an organization uses loss information to identify the accident trends, efforts made to identify and correct accident causes and the implementation and supervision of engineering and administrative controls.

Pinpointing Safe Work Practices – It’s critical that you identify and communicate to employees the safe work practices for the tasks they perform.  In pinpointing safe work practices we ask the question, “How is this task done safely?”  Answering that question requires a structured process for analyzing tasks in order to identify hazards and “engineer” them out.  You must document safe work practices, usually in a JSA, when you cannot “engineer” them out, and communicate those safe work practices to all field employees doing that task.

Observation and Feedback – The SIP borrows from the concepts of behavioral science to help employers increase the frequency of safe work practices.  Positive feedback will help increase the frequency of safe work practices while coaching feedback will address employees working at-risk.

Process Management – Define and communicate the roles and responsibilities for management and field employees.

Performance Measurement – Define and use a performance measurement process so that you will know if the process and participants are performing as expected.

Note: Don’t forget about automobile safety. It is an integral part of any safety program and should, at a minimum, include: a 360-degree walk-around of the vehicle to check blind spots and vehicle condition. If there are two occupants, the second person should act as a spotter and assist the driver if he or she is backing up. 

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