Loading buoy ceased operationAccident on Statfjord C

Safe behaviour programme

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The management of Statoil’s exploration and production Norway (EPN) business area decided in 2002 that something had to be done to improve safety on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).
— Two colleagues at Statfjord A. Photo: Shadé Barka Martins/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

One of the driving forces behind this decision was concern at the failure of serious personal injuries to decline in step with a reduction in serious incidents. This led to the launch of the safe behaviour programme, which aimed to alter employee attitudes and conduct so that they were better equipped to handle the risks they faced at work.

The underlying idea was that people always have time to work safely, and that it was unacceptable simply to accept that hazardous conditions could develop into accidents. This concept can be linked to the “zero philosophy” adopted by Statoil in the health, safety and environmental (HSE) area as early as 1996.

Zero injuries and accidents were to become part of every employee’s mindset and way of working. This philosophy can be summed up as a view that accidents do not happen, they are caused.

All accidents are therefore preventable. The goal of zero injuries and accidents and the philosophy which underpins it were supported by the Storting (parliament) when considering White Paper no 7 (2001-2002).

Statoil believed that human error was the primary underlying cause of incidents, and that 90 per cent of all injuries/accidents were precisely the result of hazardous actions. The individual accordingly acquired an important role in the company’s efforts to reach its goal of zero injuries and accidents – and this was especially evident in the safe behaviour programme.

A shift from stressing hard technical barriers to more focus on soft and human barriers shows that it was important for Statoil to change behaviour in order to prevent undesirable incidents.

The programme’s objective was to improve safety by modifying conduct at all levels. It was an activity which would provide “enhanced safety and a good and robust safety culture by changing behaviour in all parts and at all levels of Statoil’s organisation”.

Its principal message was that safety behaviour and culture can be improved through five barriers – correct priorities, compliance, open dialogue, continuous risk assessment and caring for each other.

1. Correct priorities means taking the time to work safely. If a conflict arises between safety and other important considerations, such as production or cost, safety will have top priority until the conflict has been resolved.
2. Compliance involves abiding by requirements and procedures. Employees must comply with the requirements, procedures and guidelines which apply for the activities being pursued.
3. Open dialogue means that everyone must feel that it is natural and secure to raise safety-related issues with their immediate superior or work colleagues. It will be permissible to ask whether a job can be done in a safer way, and it must be in order to propose better and safer ways to work.
4. Continuous risk assessment means taking that brief moment in advance. Everyone must pause ahead of a job to assess whether this is a safe way to do it and how they can avoid being injured if anything unexpected occurs.
5. To show care for others, everybody must dare to intervene. If a workmate is doing something which could pose a threat to themselves or others, you should intervene and tell them so.

White Paper no 12 (2005-2006) on HSE in the petroleum industry defined barriers as “technical, operational and organisational measures which individually or in interaction are intended to prevent or halt the course of specific undesirable incidents”. Such barriers could reduce both the probability and the consequences of an occurrence.

In other words, the government wanted emphasis to be given to both technical and human barriers and to the interaction between humans, organisation and technology. Statoil, for its part, was paying greater attention to the human aspect.
The company began to concentrate more on people’s conduct, choices and attitudes as important barriers. These were given great prominence in the safe behaviour programme.

Efforts were made to change employee attitudes and conduct, and to create a new HSE culture combined with a shared understanding of safety and risk. In this way, Statoil hoped to come closer to its goal of zero injuries and accidents.

The safe behaviour programme began with a two-day gathering at a hotel, where powerful real-life stories were told and provision was made for dialogue between employees and management.

Principles for these sessions included a limited number of important messages, the same messages for everyone, and simple and well-known content in a new packaging.

Other key aspects were the use of storytelling as an instrument, getting everyone involved, no finger-pointing and tight organisation. Two important preconditions were that the programme had to embrace everyone in the organisation and that it had to be long-term.

Including not only Statoil employees but also contractor personnel among the participants says something about the way the company wanted its safety culture to be.

Follow-up of the safe behaviour programme was to last for four years through such means as a number of fixed and more sporadic meetings.

Departments were to discuss internally how the introductory gathering had influenced individual behaviour and to review conditions which prevented taking care.

Action was to be taken to remove obstacles, and barriers discussed. Efforts to strengthen the latter were to be pursued through in town hall, HSE and departmental meetings, and out in each workplace.

The song I Chose to Look the Other Way by Don Merrell has become a symbol of the safety philosophy which underlay the safe behaviour programme.

I Chose to Look the Other Way
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care;
I had the time, and I was there.

But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before;
If I spoke up he might get sore.

The chances didn’t seem that bad;
I’d done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked on by;
He knew the risks as well as I.

He took the chance, I closed an eye;
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

Now every time I see his wife,
I know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear;
But it isn’t something you need share.

If you see a risk that others take
That puts their health or life at stake,
The question asked or thing you say;
Could help them live another day.

If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.”

Stolpe, M. (2007). Nullfilosofi I Praksis : Et Case Av Statoil Mongstad, IV, 139
Norge Arbeids- og inkluderingsdepartementet. (2006). Helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten (Vol. Nr 12(2005-2006), St.meld. … (trykt utg.)). Oslo: Departementet.
Norge Arbeids- og administrasjonsdepartementet. (2002). Om helse, miljø og sikkerhet i petroleumsvirksomheten (Vol. Nr 7 (2001-2002), Oslo: Departementet.

Loading buoy ceased operationAccident on Statfjord C
Published November 26, 2019   •   Updated January 7, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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