Welcome back! I thank you for the feedback and responses to the safety section of Permian Basin Oil and Gas Magazine. It is fun to write about some experiences, solutions, and different angles on how to make safety relevant, innovative, and even (sometimes) thought provoking. As I’ve said before, there are numerous different angles to make an effective safety program. I don’t know of a single method that is 100 percent effective for every situation. If there was, everyone would be doing it.
I do know that a stale safety program is a dead one. An effective safety program has many variables that depend on the target audience and talent, as well as the specific type of business. The safety program must be dynamic (constantly changing) in nature, and must be striving to get better all the time. It’s like the Greek mythological bird, the Phoenix—it dies and then regenerates or reinvents itself and rises from the ashes.
After numerous years in the oilfield, in both operations and safety, the one thing I have noticed is that almost everyone, at one time or another, enjoys the Cafeteria Plan.
I enjoy taking my kids and grandkids to a popular cafeteria; however, cafeterias these days are almost thing of the past. They still exist in some larger cities, but they are becoming increasingly rare. A cafeteria is a place where everyone can pick his or her favorite foods. But you will notice that the kids pretty much slide by the salads, pick a favorite in the meat selection, maybe a corny dog. Then they rush by the vegetables and stop at the rolls. I try to entice them by saying, ‘If you are good and eat some veggies I will let you have a dessert, and additionally even some ice cream.’ I really can’t pick on the kids because I’ve seen adults do the same! Then the kids choose a soda, the adults choose tea or water, and my generation usually gets coffee and water. Everyone is happy… kind of. Not everyone chooses a full balanced meal. Everyone would like to pass the register, because it can get expensive real quick.
Safety has a cafeteria plan as well. Hardly anyone wants the full, balanced meal. When working in the field, I’ll take a hardhat and steel-toed boots, but I don’t really need an H2S monitor. Safety glasses, they aren’t comfortable. They give me headaches and sweat gets on the lens. For drinks I’ll have an energy drink because I’m feeling a little sluggish. If I am good and wear all of my PPE and follow all the rules, I might get a safety bonus. Okay, I might be sounding a little simplistic, but you get the point. In order to have a safety plan that is effective, you must have one that is balanced.
All of the rules must be followed. Some rules protect us when the potential for severity is small but the likelihood (due to frequency) of an injury is great. Conversely, the likelihood of a possible accident may be small, but the potential of the injury could be catastrophic. So on which ones do we place the most emphasis? All of them.
How do we do that? Cafeterias try to make the same nutritional food every day by offering variety. They change the menu. They change the presentation. They make it as appealing as possible in an effort to satisfy everyone’s tastes, one way or another. Some cafeterias are more successful than others. Some safety programs are more successful than others.
Driving is also on the Cafeteria plan. To take a hypothetical situation: I’m on a back road with little or no traffic. The likelihood of the DPS being out here is slim to none. I think I will drive a bit faster than the recommended speed. A stop sign? There’s no one around—a pause will be adequate. Speed limit 75? I’ve heard that law enforcement gives you 10 percent grace over the speed limit. A turn signal? I don’t need no stinkin’ turn signal, LOL.
Unfortunately, and it’s a sign of these days and times, there are some companies that believe they are “sanctuary” companies regarding the rules and regulations. If the companies don’t believe in the established rules and regulations, they simply don’t follow them or enforce them. Fortunately, these companies don’t last very long. Safety has to be a balanced, well presented entity that complements operational efficiency.
Now it’s time to start landing this plane. Training does not have to be entertaining, but it helps. Training does have to be appetizing and memorable to have a balanced impact. Enforcement of the rules does not always have to be heavy handed. Enforcement has to be present, fair, and consistent. Compliance does not have to be rewarded but it does need to be recognized. Going home safely everyday is a reward in of itself. Anything above that is ice cream.
There is a saying in the oilfield: You can have it Cheap, you can have it Fast, You can have it Good.
But you can only have two out of the three. If you want good and cheap, it won’t be fast. If you want it fast and good, it won’t be cheap. If you want it fast and cheap, it won’t be good. Make sure your priorities are in the right place. It’s just like the Cafeteria plan.
That’s it for this month. Next month I will delve into a topic that is near and dear to me and an important ingredient in becoming a leader in Oil and Gas Safety. As always, It’s not how many doubles or triples you hit in baseball. It’s how many times you get home safely that wins the game.
Dusty Roach is a safety professional based in Midland. He is also a public speaker on subjects of leadership and safety, and he maintains a personal website at dustyroach.com.