Warren Hubler is the Vice President for Health, Safety and Environment at Helmerich & Payne (H&P) International Drilling Company in Tulsa, OK. His job is to oversee the safety of H&P’s 6000+ global employees. It’s not easy. As one of the world’s premier contractors for drilling of oil and gas wells, H&P has land, offshore, and international operations workers around the world. At any given moment, those workers are engaged in activities that can be dangerous if not handled properly.
A couple of years ago, Hubler says the company started to experience a plateau in its safety numbers. At the same time, they noticed an increase in the severity of recordable injuries. Then it got worse. H&P lost two members of its work family within the span of two weeks in job-related incidents in November 2014.
“The two fatalities back-to-back reflected what we were doing in support of injury prevention at H&P was no longer getting the job done,” Hubler says. “It was time to start looking outward.”
Here’s what Hubler and H&P did next:
You chose to bring in DEKRA Insight as a consultant to assess your safety culture. Why?
We selected DEKRA Insight because, one, you had lots of scientific data behind your theories, your concepts, with proven results. Second, we selected DEKRA because my personal belief is there are two credible resources worthy of following as a forward-thinking senior safety leader. They are Doctor Scott Geller, Virginia Tech psychology professor, and Doctor Tom Krause, [founder of what’s become DEKRA Insight].
The first thing DEKRA Insight did with H&P is conduct a company-wide assessment. What did that involve?
There were field surveys responded to by nearly 4000 employees from U.S. Land, U.S. Offshore and International Operations. I believe there were 80-plus questions. The responses to the questions allowed DEKRA to assess our company at three levels: senior leadership, middle management and then field crews. For each category, we would have a raw number. And then our score was compared against DEKRA’s universe of other companies that work in the same industry.
What did those results tell you about your company’s safety culture?
It told us what was working, what existed that could be improved upon and what was no longer working and needed to be eliminated. For example, Injury Reporting: how well do employees report injuries and incidents to the company. According to the survey results, there was under-reporting. That was one of our weakest areas when our data was compared against other organizations that DEKRA has in its data base. We performed or scored somewhere in the 50th percentile compared to other companies in the oil and gas extraction industry.
Do you feel like that comparison was “apples-to-apples” for H&P?
We’re a bit of a mixed bag of 80% U.S. Land, 10% U.S. Offshore, and 10% International operations as a drilling contractor. For us, it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison because one other company, for example, in that universe of data is Shell. Shell – or Shell Production, in particular -- is our customer for some of our rig operations. Shell Drilling is not a DEKRA client. But our data would be compared against Shell Production which has a different business function within our industry.
[NOTE: DEKRA consultant, Bill Bozzo, says it’s understandable that a company like H&P would want different business function comparisons done on its data and DEKRA does do that for its clients. “However,” Bozzo says, “you’ll see numbers move up and down but, at the end of the day, there aren’t a lot of differences.”]
Did the assessment present any other challenges?
I think from DEKRA’s standpoint, H&P is probably handicapping itself by constantly trying to improve. We have been challenged in trying to tailor DEKRA’s new messaging to fit some of our prior processes that have been deleted, discontinued. At some point, you have to say, ‘This is the finished product. This is what we’re going to teach. This is what we’re going to reinforce then in the field with coaching.’ So I think the recurring tailoring that we’ve tried to do has created some obstacles.
I would also say, at this point in our journey, some of us are still waiting to see those proven results. DEKRA has taught us traditional measurements like T.R.I.R. (Total Recordable Incident Rate) are not the true measure of success in safety. So, it’s really unfair for me to say, ‘We’re not seeing improvement.’ We don’t know because we don’t know how bad the under-reporting was. The DEKRA consultants acknowledge it’s going to take time.
So, what is H&P doing right now with the assessment recommendations?
We are conducting leadership development workshops. DEKRA proposed BAPP (Behavioral Accident Prevention Process)* and we rejected that recommendation. We didn’t think it was a good fit for how we were structured and how we carried out work on the rig. DEKRA countered with a process around scenario building and exposure discussions. We’ve made that another workshop. So, we’re going through organizational health assessments on multiple fronts within H&P.
Change is underway. The culture is improving. Employees are focusing more on identifying exposures and controlling the exposures.
If you’d like to know what DEKRA consultants say about our assessment process, register for our webinar Safety Assessment: The First Step to Optimal Performance.
* BAPP® technology is DEKRA Insight’s employee engagement system using behavior-based tools to reduce exposure to injury. The approach has been implemented at more than 2,000 companies worldwide and produces an average 25% reduction in injuries the first year.