The Oil & Gas Industry has, for decades, strived to secure an environment where innovation and technology are possible, infrastructure and logistics are reliable, ultimately to achieve the comfort and safety of people.
From protective equipment to engineered solutions to hospitals and trauma centers, oil & gas helps to warm and cool our homes, drive innovation and technology and are essential to the health care industry.
But before anyone can enjoy these benefits it is imperative that leadership continuously examine ways to ensure the health and safety of employees and the world in which they work and live, without which none of this would be possible.
Preserving Human Life & Well-Being
From the simplest operation to the most complex businesses, all share some things in common. They need qualified people, the proper equipment, and products (raw or finished material). It is the responsibility of management to acquire, maintain, and coordinate these commodities in a way that ensures the safety of workers.
And while every occupation includes some measure of risk the health and safety culture of every operation must exceed the risk potential of that operation.
Extraction, processing, transportation, and storage of oil & gas all present potential dangers to workers. From mechanical and industrial machinery to harsh physical environments, to the product and by-products themselves, the risk potential for injury is high to both workers and the environment.
This demands a high level of attention and detail to ensure the health and safety of not just workers but the environment and the population at large. The product is both flammable and explosive. The equipment is industrial, dangerous, and expensive. EHS must be a top priority because failure can result in a catastrophic loss of life, property, and resources.
In 2010 British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon platform exploded. Nearly five billion gallons of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico before the well could be capped. BP lost billions in equipment and paid nearly 19 billion dollars in fines. But most importantly, 11 lives were lost.
In 1988 an explosion on a North Sea offshore oil platform ended 167 lives. Nearly 75% of the workers on the platform died.
Loss of life is of course not the only risk. In any heavy industrial environment even without explosive material, the risk of life-changing injuries is a serious concern. The difference between the losses in 1988 (North Sea) and 2010 (Deepwater Horizon), resulted from increased awareness about how safety can prevent injury and death with EHS programs that benefit not just people but the environment. Reducing accidents saves lives and preserves the world in which the oil & gas industry must work and in which we live.
Protecting the Environment
While oil & gas are naturally occurring, commodities developed to improve lives and livelihoods the extraction and transportation of this material present risks not just to workers but the world around us.
In 1989 an Exxon Oil Tanker was grounded on a reef in Prince William Sound, releasing 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into these remote regions of Alaska. The spill affected 1300 miles of coastline, thousands of sea birds and otters, hundreds of seals, eagles, whales, and the salmon and herring industry.
The response at the time included chemical dispersants whose toxicity presented potential health risks to both animals and cleanup crews with consequences that could last well beyond the disaster itself.
The plans in place as a result of an accident were insufficient to address real-world risk. The result was a significant long-term impact on the natural world, the people tasked with clean up, and the local fishing industry.
To prevent these sorts of oversights the deployment of mission-critical applications and a culture hyper-focused on not just what can happen but could and prepare an operation for situations that left unaddressed could result in catastrophic loss.
Human life is by far the most precious commodity. Skilled workers make productivity possible and by protecting them you also protect the environment, as well as other investments.
Industrial accidents resulting from incomplete or improper risk mitigation create many levels of loss that affect not just the business but people.
Large amounts of front-end capital are required to make oil & gas production possible. It takes years of research and development, and industrial scale facilities, whose costs can take decades to recover. Protecting these assets is essential to not just protecting lives and locales but developing a foundation for expansion and new exploration.
Loss management is what happens after your EHS programs have come up short and when it is the oil & gas industry these costs have wide ranging impacts that trickle down into local and national economies.
On the upside, professionally managed operations focused on EHS improve safety and productivity that can then leverage resources that result in more investments in communities and local economies.
The oil & gas industry produces more than just a vital resource. They create good-paying jobs in and around local communities. The comforts of modern life are impossible without them, but the press often present a negative image that is exacerbated by industrial accidents or injuries.
While many groups are focused on the byproducts of oil & gas production, or consumption accidents heighten public focus. This makes health and safety a critical vector for continued goodwill. EHS makes that possible and the oil & gas industry has reduced oil spills exponentially in recent decades while increasing production. But future goodwill is dependent on a corporate culture that prioritizes safety not just of workers but the land and people in and around areas of operation.
Listen to concerns and consider modifications that can enhance safety protocols. And make a commitment to being a good corporate or business partner that is bringing value and opportunity to the community.
Reassure local leaders by making your safety goals EHS programs transparent whenever possible.
Keys to Effective EHS
Effective EHS requires an ongoing critical analysis of every aspect of the oil & gas operation at regular intervals. Identify hazards and analyze each to determine where they land on the hierarchy of controls. Can the risk be eliminated? If not, what options are available to reduce hazards through mitigation?
Can processes or equipment be re-engineered to improve safety or are best-case scenarios achieved with exposure reduction that includes training, warning signs, and improved protective equipment?
If a procedure is not documented, then regulators and others will consider that it does not exist. That’s why detailed documentation is essential. Personnel must be trained to follow the most updated EHS and audits will confirm that procedures are being followed.
Fresh eyes are more critical when measuring practice to the plan. And while buy-in from managers and workers is essential for success, making EHS a priority starts at the top.
Utilize surveys to measure employee buy-in. Safety is important, but do your employees really believe that? Can they see it? Is the culture on the ground conducive to a productive work environment? Are corporate values evident in their responses? If you give them a direct path to leadership to express concerns or make suggestions the entire organization can benefit.
Leaders must commit to more than simply incorporating EHS in the mission statement; they must communicate its vital importance at every opportunity. Make safety not just a core value but its own reward.
Intellect can help you grow and establish a culture of innovation, quality, and safety compliance with solutions that work around YOUR business process. We provide extreme configurability, offering innovations designed to meet your needs and flexible enough to change with them. Contact us today for a free demo.
Now that you've learned the importance of EHS for the oil and gas industry, learn about the "Top 5 Reasons EHS Systems Increase Profitability".