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Overcoming Limitations in Safety Improvement

Updated: Dec 17, 2023


In the oil and gas industry, where safety is paramount, achieving safety excellence is a complex and ongoing challenge. Often, progress in safety is hindered by leaders who oversimplify its concept. This blog post aims to address and rectify four common oversimplified practices in safety management.


1. Moving Beyond Simplistic Safety Definitions

In the oil and gas sector, safety cannot be boiled down to basic phrases like "think before you act." Such simplistic definitions fail to capture the intricate nature of safety in our industry, where risks are high and environments are complex. Leaders must communicate a more nuanced understanding of safety, emphasizing a culture of continuous learning and improvement. A deeper definition of safety will lead to a more engaged and safety-conscious workforce.


2. Developing a Comprehensive Safety Strategy

Safety in our industry demands more than just a monthly program or initiative. It requires a well-thought-out strategy that goes beyond mere attentiveness. Workers in oil and gas operations are internal customers of safety, and a strategic approach must be tailored to their unique needs and challenges. By adopting a strategy that proactively addresses risks and promotes safety culture, we can move towards preventing accidents and injuries more effectively.


3. Emphasizing Leading Indicators Over Lagging Indicators

Focusing solely on lagging indicators like accident rates can trap an organization in a cycle of trying to "fail less." In the oil and gas industry, where the stakes are high, this approach is insufficient. We must shift our focus to leading indicators that measure proactive safety behaviors, which allow for proactive improvements and sustainable progress in safety.


4. Ensuring Leadership Commitment at the C-Suite Level

Delegating safety responsibilities to a lower-level safety specialist without strategic oversight can be detrimental. Safety in the oil and gas industry requires committed leadership at the highest level. This ensures that safety is integrated into the company’s core values and strategies rather than being seen as a compliance or secondary issue.


Breaking Free from Oversimplification

To overcome the limitations of oversimplification and achieve safety excellence, oil and gas organizations need to:

  • Define safety comprehensively, understanding the unique hazards of our industry.

  • Develop a strategic safety approach tailored to the complex environments we operate in.

  • Focus on leading indicators that encourage proactive safety management.

  • Ensure that safety is a priority at the C-suite level, integrating it into the core business strategy.


In conclusion, simplifying safety can be a significant barrier to achieving true safety excellence in the oil and gas industry. We can foster a more effective and proactive safety culture by addressing these four key areas. It’s essential to think differently, continuously seek improvement, and embrace a comprehensive approach to safety.

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