Practicing Safety

Article originally published in Energy Processing Canada's March/April 2015 edition. Visit them online at 

Oil and gas worksites can be dangerous places because workers operate heavy, moving equipment and sometimes handle dangerous substances. Industry employees and the numerous contractors who work together can be severely hurt or there can be fatal incidents if they are inexperienced, untrained or inadequately supervised. 

The responsibility for work site safety is a shared responsibility, however the regulations place specific responsibilities on the owner, operating companies (lease holders), and the prime contractor.

The responsibilities require them to ensure that new, young, inexperienced and transferred workers have received a general safety orientation prior to accessing any active work site, and to provide those organizations with assurance that workers are receiving the required orientation that addresses the OHS requirements.

A strong safety culture is one in which:

1) Leaders demonstrate that safety is their overriding value and priority.

2) Everyone is aware of known hazards while remaining vigilant to new threats.

3) Every employee feels empowered and recognized for making safe decisions.

4) Employees feel encouraged to report safety hazards, including instances where they have committed an error and introduced a threat themselves.

5) Everyone, including the most junior employee would not hesitate to take action in response to a safety concern without fear of disciplinary action or reprisal.

6) People work safely regardless of whether or not someone is watching.

7) The organization is continually learning from its own and others’ experiences with the goal of advancing safety.

Leadership is vital to establishing, fostering and maintaining a healthy safety culture. The attitudes of executive and senior management, their actions and decisions serve to shape corporate culture. Leadership uses its management systems’ policies’, priorities, processes, and procedures to formally communicate its values and expectations.

Through these mechanisms, executive management establishes the initial framework of the corporate culture. Where an organization is strongly in tune with establishing and maintaining a positive safety culture, it scrutinizes, as a normal business function, every decision to ensure that risk is considered and managed appropriately.

It sets performance measures that provide a complete picture of the organization’s current state in order to identify areas of weakness and to proactively manage safety in advance of an incident.

In high hazard industries, there are two kinds of accidents: accidents that happen to individuals and accidents that happen at an organizational level. Individual accidents are more frequent and of limited consequence, although the consequences can be significant to those affected. Organizational accidents are rate but the outcomes can be widespread and catastrophic. In the oil and gas industry, these accidents typically involve product releases or spill, blowouts, explosion and fires. 


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