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Shifting from Failure Avoidance to Safety Excellence

Updated: Dec 17, 2023


As a Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) professional in the oil and gas industry, I understand the importance of reframing our approach to safety from merely avoiding failures to actively pursuing excellence. Peter Drucker’s insight that a system is perfectly designed to yield the results it gets is particularly relevant in safety management. Here, I’ll outline the steps necessary to shift from a failure avoidance mindset to a proactive strategy for safety excellence, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and prevention.


Step 1: Rethinking the Use of Incident Rates

Traditionally, safety performance has been measured by incident rates. While these are important indicators, they only tell part of the story and often lead to a narrow focus on managing statistics. Instead, we should develop a more transformational approach, like a balanced safety scorecard, that provides a holistic view of safety performance and drives meaningful change.


Step 2: Establishing Positive Safety Goals

Setting goals in safety should not be about just avoiding the worst (like zero injuries), but rather about striving for the best. This means framing objectives positively, such as achieving 100% safety or cultivating a robust safety culture. Positive goal setting inspires and motivates the workforce towards continuous improvement.


Step 3: Prioritizing Safety Initiatives

Leaders must prioritize initiatives that align with their positive safety goals. This step involves selecting actions that clearly contribute to these objectives and can demonstrate tangible progress. It’s critical to prioritize initiatives based on their potential impact and strategic alignment with safety goals.


Step 4: Implementing Initiatives Strategically

With a prioritized list of initiatives, the focus should turn to effective execution. This is more than just taking action; it’s about ensuring these actions are part of a larger strategic plan that aims to improve the safety culture and prevent accidents. Each initiative should be evaluated for its alignment with the overall safety strategy, its potential impact, and its effectiveness in managing risks.


Adopting a Strategic Safety Approach

The transition to a strategic approach in safety is essential. It requires a shift in mindset from seeing safety as a series of reactive measures to viewing it as a proactive, integral part of the organization’s culture and operations. This strategic approach should be aligned with the organization’s overall goals and should focus on continuous improvement, not just the avoidance of negative outcomes.


In conclusion, achieving safety excellence in the oil and gas industry requires more than just avoiding failures; it requires a proactive, strategic approach that aligns with the organization’s overall objectives. By setting positive goals, prioritizing initiatives, and implementing them strategically, we can create a culture that not only prevents accidents but also fosters continuous improvement and excellence in safety. This approach ensures that safety is not just a compliance requirement, but a core value of the organization.


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