Health, Safety, and Environment-2018

Earlier this year, SPE published the technical report “Getting to Zero and Beyond: The Path Forward,” representing the work of hundreds of oil and gas professionals and their thoughts on how we can achieve an injury- and incident-free workplace. The first paper summarizes the report’s findings.

My great-grandfather was killed on a well in Oklahoma many years ago. He and his assistant had just dropped a torpedo down the well, as was common practice in those days. It went off prematurely, killing them both. Thankfully, we have advanced our technology to the point where we do not have to use nitroglycerine to complete wells. We use hydraulic fracturing, which was commercialized around 1950. We have made many advancements in our use of technology over the years. This year’s Technology Focus will highlight just a few of them.

Earlier this year, SPE published the technical report “Getting to Zero and Beyond: The Path Forward,” representing the collective work of hundreds of oil and gas professionals around the world and their thoughts on how we can achieve an injury- and incident-free workplace. The first paper presented in this section summarizes the findings from that report. It was presented at the 2018 SPE International Conference and Exhibition on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility in April in Abu Dhabi. More details are in the paper, but I want to highlight one: We define a vision for safety where “zero harm” is an expectation today. This should be built into our performance plans and strategies where we adopt new technologies and techniques and reinforce lifesaving rules that we know have made a difference in performance. As an industry, and as individual companies, we must also look at achieving a balance of leading and lagging indicators. Many companies have already internalized this combination of metrics; however, as an industry, we tend to default to lagging indicators as the measurement of, and means of assessing, our performance. As long as that is the principal metric, we will continue to drive focus on a measurement that can create pressure on reporting and fail to recognize work being done to prevent incidents from occurring. The paper on building better performance measures provides ideas built around this concept.

It is not all about technology, though; we must consider the human element. In the “Getting to Zero” report, another conclusion is that we must learn from other industries that exhibit mature integration of human factors. This includes incorporating those concepts in our risk assessments and incident investigations. Included in this section is a paper (in the list of suggested additional reading) on adding human factors to our engineering curriculum.

Finally, we need to be able to share enough details about incidents across the industry so that we can truly learn from them and gather precursor incident information so we can identify the potential of major incidents occurring. Efforts continue along those lines, with data being captured and disseminated by multiple groups. This information has helped share lessons learned from incidents. However, gaps remain in collection and analysis of precursor conditions or events, a fact that was discussed during the development of an SPE technical report published in 2016 titled “Assessing the Processes, Tools, and Value of Sharing and Learning From Offshore E&P Safety Related Data.”

A cooperative and joint effort is being made between some offshore com­panies in the US Gulf of Mexico, the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to pilot the concepts of collecting precursor data, analyzing it, and looking for hidden trends that can provide the industry with unprecedented insight into our performance. During the benchmarking exercise, we have seen knowledge and learnings being freely shared in other industries. Learning from those lessons, as well as all of the other efforts mentioned, will enable our industry to realize the expectation of zero harm.

This Month's Technical Papers

Technical Report Lays Out Path to Zero Harm and Beyond

Shift-Work Fatigue in the Petroleum Industry: A Proactive Countermeasure Using Light Cues

Better Safety Performance Measures Can Lead to Change by Improving Conversations

Cybersecurity for Upstream Operations

Analysis of Environmental Aspects of Exploiting Unconventional Reservoirs

Community Engagement and Partnership for Successful E&P Operations in Bolivia

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 187340 Improving Malaria Prevention With Innovative Biotechnology Integration by S. Ngunjiri, Fircroft, et al.

SPE 287241 Integrating Human Factors Into Petroleum Engineering’s Curriculum: Essential Training for Students by Y. Dadmohammadi, University of Oklahoma, et al.

SPE 190508 Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems Reduces HSE Risks by Rob Hoffmann, Chevron, et al.

Tom Knode, SPE, is the director of health, safety, and environment (HSE) for Athlon Solutions. He previously worked on contract for Statoil, and, before that, he was with Halliburton for 25 years. Knode has had regional and global responsibilities for the oversight of HSE and introduced programs to improve performance through enhanced HSE leadership and technical requirements. He was the Technical Director of Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility for SPE from 2008 to 2011, has been cochairperson of five SPE HSE conferences, and has coauthored more than 20 technical papers and articles, including for JPT. Knode holds a BS degree in geology from Texas Christian University and an MS degree in geology from The University of Texas at Arlington. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be reached at