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Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 29 among managers responsible for various programs and fairness among stakeholders, with engaged leadership, and with shared cultural experi- ences and assumptions. â¢ Engagement of stakeholders is facilitated by clear leadership, a sense of urgency, measurable success that people care about, recognition of when performance is falling short, and programs being embedded in manage- ment structures and cultural practices. â¢ The goal is to keep the organization moving forward on the safety cul- ture journey rather than to be satisfied with reaching an acceptable level of safety. ReCommendaTion: Company senior leadership needs to commit to and be personally engaged in a long and uncertain safety culture journey. senior leaders should ensure that their organizations take advantage of resources available from other companies, industry groups, and regulators in strengthening their own safety cultures. assessment of progress to Facilitate improvement Safety in the offshore industry is a strategic issue that needs to be managed along with operations, costs, human resources, and innovation. Safety keiTh WooD/geTTy
30 Beyond ComplianCe management requires assessment of safety outcomes and processes that enable safety, including the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of everyone in the organization. Safety culture is not a perfect concept, but its assessment directs attention to how people think, feel, and act, from top leadership to front-line workers. Whether the assessment process actually focuses on culture or on such factors as communication, management, leadership, work design, respect, and teamwork probably is not as important as the fact that the people involved are working on these interrelated factors. Many organizations, howeverâespecially smaller onesâwill find it chal- lenging to build the capabilities needed to assess safety culture and use the results to draw actionable conclusions consistent with the organizationâs overall strategy. Given the complexity of the oil and gas industry, the safety culture concept extends to both companies of various sizes (including business units, divisions, and departments that act like organized entities) and settings or workplaces that demand interdependent activities from individuals working for owners, operators, or service providers. As discussed earlier, although safety culture is routinely considered to be a shared property of a company or workplace, all organizations are
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 31 characterized by some degree of cultural variability. The culture of explo- ration and the culture of production may have different approaches to risk, even within the same company. An engineering group, for example, may share more cultural elements with other engineering professionals in their country than with operators, managers, and others in their own company. The culture on a rig or platform may have more to do with the workers and the contractors who own the rig than with the multinational oil com- pany that commissioned the drilling. Across hierarchical levels, moreover, senior executives, middle manag- ers, supervisors, and workers may have very distinct cultures, including their views on safety. As one moves higher up the organizational hierarchy, views on the existing safety culture become more positively biased, because bad news does not readily travel upward. Although some companies have already begun the safety culture jour- ney and have the resources to invest in assessment, it will be challenging for many organizations (especially smaller ones) to build the capabilities needed to assess safety culture and derive actionable implications consis- tent with their overall strategy. Jay DiCkman/geTTy
32 Beyond ComplianCe Why Is It Important to Measure Safety Culture? It is important for organiza- tions to conduct periodic assessments of their safety culture for the following reasons: â¢ Moves conversation from the vague to the specificâ An assessment moves conversation from vague, general perceptions, or a sense of how the organization is doing with respect to safety, toward a more focused exploration of what lies behind specific and quantifiable metrics, such as accident rates and injuries. â¢ Allows for the tracking of progressâRegular assessments allow man- agement (and others) to detect and reinforce slow changes in an orga- nizationâs culture that may be beneficial to safety, and to identify and address slow changes that may produce a drift into failure. â¢ Provides motivation and feedbackâOngoing assessment allows individ- uals throughout the organization to receive feedback, set goals, and seek to improve the organizationâs safety management. If its results are suf- ficiently communicated, moreover, it can help close the communication loop when front-line employees have raised safety concerns (or concerns about work and managerial practices that are not specified as âsafetyâ). â¢ Identifies strengths, weak spots, gaps, and potential improvementsâAn assessment spanning different subgroups, functions, and operational areas of the organization can provide an opportunity to examine the consistency of the culture and tailor improvement efforts to specific concerns. â¢ Can produce leading indicatorsâResults of assessments of safety cul- ture hold promise as leading indicators of safety issues that can trigger proactive interventions and serve as complements to lagging indicators such as incident rates. ReCommendaTion: operators and contractors should assess their safety cultures regularly as part of a safety management system. B s ee
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 33 What Approaches to Safety Culture Assessment Can Be Taken? A safety culture assessment starts with a clear concept and then builds a set of assessment procedures that are suited to that concept. Given their wide range of sizes, resources, and work activities involved with safety culture, organizations can be expected to use a great variety of assessment approaches. Unfortunately, moreover, there is no one agreed-upon best approach for assessing organizational or safety culture. None of the established methods for assessing culture, including safety culture (see pages 34â35), is perfect; each has strengths and weaknesses. Use of multiple methods helps build on the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of indi- vidual approaches. ReCommendaTion: Companies should use multiple assessment methods, including, in particular, both leading and lagging indicators and both quantitative and qualitative indicators of safety culture. Compa- nies should also apply a mix of indicators, including some that are more standard across the industry to facilitate ease of use and comparison across organizations and some that are tailored to the specific needs and concerns of their organization. Bsee
34 Beyond ComplianCe Safety Culture assessment methods ethnography The emphasis of this method is typically on understanding a novel culture, particu- larly with respect to deriving meanings, as insiders understand them. ethnogra- phers observe organizations, often for an extended period, and ask questions of key individuals who are willing to share insights and mentor the researcher. in the hands of a skilled ethnographer, levels of accuracy and insight (even wisdom) are high, but reliance on a highly skilled outsider to conduct the ethnography can require considerable time and resources and yield uncertain benefits, which can be frustrating and even prohibitive for manag- ers and regulators. episodic Fieldwork less intensive than ethnography is a set of field-based methods, referred to as epi- sodic fieldwork, that includes combinations of direct observation of work practices by individuals or teams of visitors, interviews of individuals or groups, and analysis of documentation. episodic fieldwork takes less time than the work of an ethnographer who enters a completely strange new culture, and the involvement of a team provides diverse viewpoints and enables testing of assumptions, observations, and conclusions. at the same time, however, an ethnographer who resides in a culture for many months may have a greater oppor- tunity to observe the underlying culture, especially those aspects that are taken for granted and invisible to episodic visitors. document Review inquiries or governmental investigations into an accident can serve as a source of vicarious learning for other organizations throughout the industry. however, waiting for an accident to occur misses the oppor- tunity to find weaknesses in organizational defenses. leading indicators of accidents (i.e., near misses) can provide a more comprehensive picture and facilitate learn- ing from a wider range of events. Docu- ment reviews can also include incident reports and investigations, maintenance backlogs, corrective action program activi- ties, training processes, human resources and employee health records, notes from management walkarounds, and any other information that would provide insight into the functioning of the organization. Culture and Climate Surveys The term âsafety climateâ denotes shared perceptions of safety-relevant policies, procedures, and practices regarding what the organization rewards, supports, and expects. Culture and climate surveys are relatively quick and inexpensive (espe- cially if an off-the-shelf survey is chosen, or modified in minor ways to make it more specific to the organizational context and needs), can be kept anonymous to encour- age candor (although not everyone trusts âanonymousâ surveys), provide quantita- tive scores, and can readily be compared across multiple dimensionsâtime, organizations, departments, locations, or hierarchical levels. such surveys also can raise awareness and create opportunities for productive conversations about safety.
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 35 however, standard questions may be interpreted in different ways by different respondents, who may or may not be able (or willing) to report on âdeeperâ levels of culture. in smaller organizations, where anonymity is difficult to maintain, or in those with very low levels of trust, it may be difficult to obtain candid replies or a good response rate. Culture and climate surveys also can sometimes be treated as the end- point of the assessment (âour scores are good enoughâ) as opposed to a mechanism for guiding a substantive conversation about safety. Guided Self-analysis guided self-analysis is not as time- and labor-intensive as ethnography or as broad-brush or âdistantâ as surveys. This method relies primarily on cultural insiders to analyze their own culture through one or more workshops or meetings (hence, self-analysis), but it recognizes the need for skilled facilitation by either an internal specialist or external consultant (hence, guided). This process engages a cross section of participants who are knowledge- able about the culture but also have the curiosity and critical thinking skills to step outside their own culture. having a diverse group for these discussions is desirable, but if the existing culture is low on trust (low psychological safety; high conflict), it may be necessary to have more homoge- neous groups within a single hierarchical level and even a single department so as to encourage candid conversation. multiple methods The use of multiple methods combines the strengths and mitigates the weaknesses of individual methods to achieve a practical mix of benefits without crippling costs. for example, a safety climate survey could be used to provide broad background informa- tion and raise questions about dimensions, departments, or hierarchical levels with higher or lower scores. Typically, attention focuses on the lower scores as areas for improvement, but it may be useful to think about the organizationâs strengths and attempt to learn from its successes. The or- ganization then could follow up with other methods to gain a deeper understanding of the problems and opportunities. interpreta- tion of the meaning of the scores needs to go beyond numerical averages or the intuitions of a few people preparing the report. many organizations use focus group interviews following a survey to discuss the results and to obtain specific examples and details as to what the responses mean to workers, supervisors, and managers. some organizations include work observa- tions (as in episodic fieldwork) conducted around the time of the climate survey to add further richness to the data. Then, diverse teams can begin to assemble ideas about how to intervene and how to evalu- ate whether progress is being made. This process helps elevate concerns so they receive the attention and resources needed to address them and ensure that steps are taken to gather further information and en- gage broad participation in sense-making and change initiatives. eRiC hinson/DReamsTime
36 Beyond ComplianCe Who Should Assess Safety Culture? As with any aspect of safety, assessment of safety culture requires objectiv- ity, expertise, and sensitivity to context. Some organizations already have the right capabilities and motivation to conduct a safety culture assess- ment, but many others need assistance from outside auditors, corporate experts, consultants, peer organizations, or industry groups. In some cir- cumstances, external organizations may be more trusted by respondents and therefore elicit more candid responses, and they also may have better access to benchmarking data. The long-term goal should be to bring the self-assessment and self-reflection capabilities as close to the work as pos- sible, involving everyone in the safety culture assessment process. Tailoring safety culture assessment to each organization is especially important in the offshore industry because of the great variation, discussed earlier, in the size, resources, risks, and sophistication of offshore organizations. As discussed above, given that surveys provide only a partial view of the safety culture of an organization, a more comprehensive assessment often engages a team of specialists who use a combination of tools, such as interviews, document reviews, observations, and focus groups. The size and makeup of assessment teams need to flow from the scope and John RoWley/geTTy
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 37 purpose of the undertaking and the complexity of the methods used. Consistent with the awareness that multiple cultures exist within organizations, a broad, comprehensive understanding of an orga- nizationâs safety culture (or cultures) will require a range of assessment tools and a diverse assessment team. In a larger organization, this means gather- ing data from multiple levels (executives, managers, front-line employees) and across functional areas (e.g., drilling, engineering). A more focused investi- gation of one particular aspect of safety culture (e.g., issues with lock-out, tag-out procedures) likely will require a much smaller team (or even an individual) using a more focused set of tools. Regardless of the final composition of the as- sessment team, it is important for the host organiza- tion to retain ownership of both the process and follow-up actions on the recommendations resulting from the assessment. This is useful for several reasons. First, if employees perceive that management has outsourced the safety culture assessment (and perhaps the broader problem) to an outside agency or contractor, they may conclude that the organization is not really serious about the issue. Second, the safety culture assessment ultimately will lead to awareness of the need for some actions and changes within the organization. One of the key factors predicting the success of change initiatives is management commitment. Staying involved and retaining ownership of the assessment process will increase managementâs engage- ment in and commitment to the process and any resulting recommended changes. Third, assessments that are conducted and evaluated closer to work processes typically result in more timely and appropriate responses and learning. How Can Employees Be Encouraged to Participate in the Assessment Process? Effective employee participation is a key element of the safety culture as- sessment process and successful follow-up actions. Yet despite this critical role, workers may be hesitant to participate because their opinion has not TeD hoRoWiTz/alamy
38 Beyond ComplianCe always been valued. In addition, workers may fear that reporting safety issues or making negative comments could jeopardize their job, create con- flict in the workplace, increase workload for themselves or their coworkers, and fail to result in improvements. Front-line employees need a feeling of âpsychological safetyâ to be willing to disclose difficult conditions or events without fear of being embarrassed by their peers or punished by their man- agers. This feeling is the foundation of a reporting culture and the starting point for improvement. Psychological safety can be enhanced by messages from legitimate leaders, as well as by an open, fair, and participative process. Companies need to build trust in management and provide positive incen- tives to encourage reporting and participation in the learning process. Front-line employees and all key stakeholders also need to stay in- volved, or at least be informed on an ongoing basis, after the safety culture assessment has been completed. Many organizations fail to communicate the results of the assessment back to employees, who are likely to conclude that the assessment was a ceremonial exercise carried out to comply with external demands and that no meaningful changes will result. Psychologi- TeRRy mooRe/alamy
Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 39 cal safety is important not just for front-line employees but for all partici- pants, including senior management. Companies are understandably cau- tious about producing reports that expose them to regulatory sanctions or to legal actions asserting negligence. Making safety a priority entails executives showing leadership by supporting the flow of information necessary for organizational learning, because the cost of hiding problems is likely to be higher in the long run than the cost of facing them as early on as possible. Monitoring of safety culture requires more than an assessment every 2 years through a survey. Periodic surveys and audits are most helpful when paired with other, more regular (monthly or quarterly) assessments. Larger organizations often have a âdashboardâ of indicators that are used for various management concerns, including productivity, cost, environ- ment, human relations, and safety. Increasingly, safety culture is a part of such a dashboard, with multiple indicators being examined regularly. These indicators may include codes for safety outcomes, near misses, problem reports, incident investigation results, employee concerns and suggestions, management walkarounds, observations of prejob briefings and after-action reviews, and union concerns. The safety culture assessment process also serves as an opportunity to engage the organization in a set of conversations and change activities that could have a major beneficial impact on the culture itself. An effective Bsee