TRANSCRIPT: Fortifying The Weak Link In Your HSE Chain

Tim Haïdar

In this interview, Espen Slyngstad, Head of HSE and National Oilwell Varco Norway, talks to Tim Haðdar, Editor-in-Chief of Oil & Gas IQ about how he has gone about implementing a 24/7 safety culture in his tenure on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

TH Hello and welcome, this is Tim Haðdar and I am talking today to Espen Slyngstad, HSE Manager Norway, at National Oilwell Varco, and we’re going to be speaking today about how to institute a safety culture in your organisation. Espen, thanks very much for joining us today.

ES Hello, it’s a pleasure.

TH Espen, first of all, how have you gone about setting up a culture of safety in your role at National Oilwell Varco?

ES The issues that we are working on I would try to bring at the forefront is of course to be very clear about the value of the safety work as such. Everyone is aware of the value of protecting its employees; there is no-one who is arguing against that fact in itself, so that is pretty much a shared value in all organisations. In addition to that, we’re working about just showing the values of safety even beyond preserving the life and health of our employees is that because of solid safety work normally has positive effects on efficiency and other things affecting the business’s ability to develop as well so that safety is valued even beyond the core value of protecting people and employees. That is the main thing actually, showing that carrying out safety work has positive effects even on a day to day basis and beyond protecting the life and health of the employees.

TH So effectively you’re saying that good safety leads to good efficiency and therefore optimised production on your assets as well?

ES Yes. Because good safety work normally requires a very structured working approach, solid planning, and that normally has a positive effect on efficiency and how the work is carried out because you should be able to identify challenges ahead and then circumvent those challenges and then improve efficiency as well as protecting the employees.

TH Now one of the things that you’re going to be talking about at the conference is the human factor side of the offshore safety story, now how do you think that you can take steps to reduce the human factors based weak link, as it were, in the HSE chain?

ES We have got some inspiration from the aviation industry which has been working on the human factors aspect for a few decades now and we have, in our organisation, at least for the managers of the utmost risk groups that they have, have gone through the so-called crew resource management training concept where it teaches you how you can use your leadership skills, your people as a barrier, in addition to the technical barriers that you have in the safety work. How communication affects the safety, how fatigue affects the safety, and so on.

TH Wherever there are humans working on oilrigs obviously there is going to be that human factors based risk there, what have you done specifically?

ES The first thing we did was to recognise that human error will always be present to a certain degree at least because people do mistakes and they will continue to do mistakes and then it’s just to recognise this fact and then to start to develop those barriers to prevent those mistakes from leading into accidents and that was a basic assumption towards the HSE training we carried out for the managers of a certain part of the organisation, the use of the crew resource management concept, how you can use your people to build barriers to reduce the probability of mistakes leading up to accidents. So we carried out this programme in this winter and then the response from the groups that went through was very positive. So we will continue to develop that concept.

TH Now one of the things that you mentioned was communication and the nature of the oil business means that companies will naturally have to employ contractors extraneous to the organisation itself to work on assets for them. Now the problem with that in many cases is that those people will not be au fait with the internal levels of expected safety that the various companies have in place; how can you get around this in building up a safety culture? How important is communication with contractors?

ES I think communication is vital in all aspects of safety work and all contractors working for you would of course need to be very aware of the principles and standards that you’re working off because if they’re not aware of it they will not only put themselves at risk, they will also put our own employees at risk because they’re not following those standards and it’s to be really clear and specific about which standards they expect from our contractors, that this is something that we will monitor closely and a failure to adhere to those standards is something that will be taken very seriously and not accepted at all. We are auditing our own contractors and we will also set up, as a part of the contract, which standards that we will expect them to adhere to when they’re working for us. So, we are in the process of developing those things now and that’s happening.

TH Now from your experience, making sure that HSE is at the forefront of the entire workforce minds at all times, what advice would you give to people who are in your position in other companies?

ES I think it will be important to see safety as a core value that everyone will agree in, you won’t find anyone who will disagree with you on that basic point, so to continue to repeat that point will just tire people off potentially because it’s so well-known. The challenge will be then to show every employee the value of the safety work, that the measures taken are sound, that it’s something that they can accept and that it’s very visible to them, the value that it creates for themselves, but also for the company itself. Like everything you’re doing improves the value of the work and undertaking you’re carrying out – that will be the core.

TH How have you been doing that in your organisation?

ES From managers downwards and that’s something that we need to communicate and we try then, when we communicate, when we do training, to explain what the value of this work is? Like when you’re a safe [?] job, why should I buy into this concept; you have to convince people that it’s something which will give some benefits. To increase the credibility of what you’re doing, how things at the core of the challenge that you’re facing.

TH Well, great Espen thanks very much for your time today.

ES Looking forward to be at the conference then in November.

TH Great.

ES Yes, see you then.

Tim Haðdar is the Editor In Chief at Oil & Gas IQ. Reach Him At Twitter Or OGIQ