Why Psychology Motivates This Oil and Gas Safety Manager

Ryan Sloan, safety manager for Birchcliff Energy, explains how two separate tragedies spur him on to change the way workers think.

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Ryan Sloan’s career has been marked by two separate tragedies that motivate him to change the way workers think. The health and safety manager for Birchcliff Energy says you can save lives by influencing behaviors and that he is “really fascinated” by psychology.

“How do you get people to change their paradigms or their beliefs and to make sure they do go home?” he asked.

Sloan built car washes for a living before he decided to get into the oil and gas sector as a field operator in the early 2000s. He became interested in safety and was in the middle of an interview process for a safety role when someone he knew died on the job at the age of 24.

“His spouse worked for us. I played hockey against him the night before. And, unfortunately, he passed away the next day, and it was very, very preventable,” Sloan said.

Another incident keeps safety at the front of Sloan’s mind, but it didn’t happen on a job site. A colleague and friend of his lost his child at home. Sloan says his friend was always safe at work but that he didn’t take that mindset home with him. “It was pretty standard, very simple, something you would have done on a regular basis at work," Sloan said. "But when he was at home, he didn't think that it still had the same risks and hazards.”

Changing the way someone thinks, both at work and at home, is no easy task, especially when many of the people you work with have engrained habits and ways of doing things. “Cultural beliefs is a big piece of it,” said Sloan, who works with people who have been in the oil industry for as long as 40 years.

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