Energy firms warned against complacency on workers' safety |
Gulf Times - 29 August, 2012
The president of the world’s oldest professional safety society has said that corporations in the energy sector are susceptible to complacency regarding the safety of their workers, and as a result compromise their corporate Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) policies.
Richard Pollock, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and chairman of the 8th Annual HSE Forum in Energy, taking place at the Grand Hyatt Doha from October 8 to 10 said that in some cases, conflicting organisational interests have resulted in a culture of risk in the oil and gas industry.
The safety expert’s comments come as research indicates that the return on investment (ROI) of implementing safety policies in an organisation can exceed 300% – an issue that will be among the topics addressed during the upcoming forum.
According to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute, for every dollar invested in safety the ROI exceeds three dollars. In the April 2009 issue of the ASSE journal-Professional Safety, it was reported that for every dollar invested in safety, the ROI was $ 4.41.
Pollock cited the 2010 Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and was the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, as evidence of the enormous remedial costs directly related to indifferent safety policies.
It was later determined that cost-cutting measures and lack of an effective safety system were key factors that led to the disaster.
“All too often safety is assumed to be under control, yet when under the focus of a post-incident legal or regulatory investigation, it becomes obvious that the very organisational factors that have presumably lead to profitability and growth have also created a culture of risk – including a willingness to disregard known and significant risk in the name of cost savings or expediency,” said Pollock.
“Everyone knows the devastation caused by a major incident. The clean-up costs and related fines are enormous, not to mention the cost of lost goodwill and consumer confidence that was evident in the wake of the Macondo disaster.
“There is no doubt that the risk of loss from a major incident is significantly reduced through the implementation of HSE best practices, together with a comprehensive safety management system that drives a culture that is focused on incident prevention.“We must understand that risk is the fundamental language of business, and is not always seen as a negative. Every day decisions are made based on the opportunity of financial gain, weighed against the risk of loss. However, until recently the oil and gas industry has been less than diligent in its evaluation of enterprise risk.”
Pollock added that a culture of prevention is crucial to minimising HSE risks in the oil and gas environment, while incorporating a holistic approach to stakeholder engagement is important.
“With downtime from a refinery disaster measured in millions of dollars of oil not being shipped per day, the cost of human and property loss can become insignificant,” said Pollock. “This only changes when a corporation takes a stand for safety by creating a culture of prevention and not allowing compromise. All stakeholders, including employees, must be considered.”
Founded in 1911, ASSE celebrated 100 years of safety excellence last year. Its membership consists of more than 34,000 HSE practitioners in some 151 chapters globally.
Most recently, ASSE approved a new UAE chapter in June 2012, adding to its Middle East chapter, which covers Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and has more than 800 members in the region.
Held under the patronage of HE the Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed Saleh al-Sada and chairman of Qatar Petroleum, the eighth Annual HSE Forum in Energy will host more than 45 regional and international HSE experts to discuss HSE best practice and operational excellence.
The two-day forum and exhibition will put a spotlight on the latest developments and technological solutions essential for effective health and safety management and sustainable environmental practices in the energy sector, before culminating with four half-day post conference workshops on the final day.
Headline speakers include Saad al-Kubaisi, Corporate HSE manager at Qatar Petroleum, Dr Osama Ibrahim, chief medical officer, Qatargas, Pamela Norman, senior adviser, Safety, Health & Environment, ExxonMobil, and Teresa Budworth, chief executive of NEBOSH.
The eighth Annual HSE Forum in Energy is supported by Qatar Petroleum, and organised by Fleming Gulf. Gold sponsors include Dolphin Energy and Industrial Scientific, while ChemSafe, Petrotechnics, Ras Laffan Industrial City, and SHEields are silver sponsors.