Friday, June 17, 2005

Safety Moments

It is an Oil & Gas industry standard to have strict guidelines to safety. In this effort to raise safety awareness, Oil & Gas companies have implemented long sessions of training, computer based trainings & safety moments. On a refinery, I'm sure safety moments are very necessary: "Be sure to watch for the ABC cord by machine #123, or else it could cause XYZ." In an office setting, where I feel like safety isn't as big of an issue, these companies still have safety moments. And they get intense. If you ever work for an Oil & Gas company, know that they may start every meeting with introductions, immediately followed by a safety moment. Also, please know that if you laugh during a safety moment, you will be stared down and feel very out of place -- they take these things very seriously!

Examples of Office-based Safety Moments

  • No cups without lids are allowed - if the liquid spills, it could cause an accident. And if the liquid is hot, you really need a lid.
  • No driving while talking on the cell phone
  • Ergonomics - no hunching over the computer, arms can't be using the armrests, monitor at eye-level, wrists at waist-level. If you type too much or too fast, our company has implemented a computer program that will literally freeze up your computer until you've "rested" for 15 seconds. I kept trying to type after the pop-up came on my screen, and my "rest" ended up lasting 1 min (it kept adding time until you relaxed)!
  • Having an office-wide "stretch break" - where you gather in the hallways with all your co-workers, and, well, stretch!

Competitive Safety Moments
These are really great safety topics. I'm glad my company cares so much for my safety (and I guess, them not being sued for any type of ergonomically-related issues). But it was really hard not to laugh when the first safety moment I heard was:

"We're moving offices soon. We need to be very careful about not tripping over cords, packing boxes, etc"

I take that back -- I didn't laugh when I heard that safety moment (it wasn't a bad reminder to make). I started laughing when the entire room started nodding profusely, as if some form of newly-renowned wisdom had been bestowed upon us. And then I realized safety moments get competitive. Props go out to the person who brought up the initial topic, but now it's up to the rest of the group to see if they can "one-up" that moment with another.

Imagine little kids on a playground:

  • "My daddy carried my dog all the way to the picnic the other day" starts little intiator
  • "Oh yeah, my daddy carried my mom all the way to the picnic the other day" chimes in the 'I gotta better story than you'-er
  • "Oh yeah, my daddy moved my whole house from one block to another. He picked it up brick by brick, all in one day, then he picked up all the furniture with his bare hands" says the clear winner of the discussion

So, the thing about safety moments is the fact that they are not "moments." They turn out being 20-30 min. sessions where people basically tell their scary encounters with tripping over cords, or spilling liquids on the floor. The best is this one guy who will casually listen to a safety moment (i.e. the initial moment) and then he listens to the one-uppers. Then, he smoothly reaches to his back pocket, and says with a oh-what-have-we-here-voice: "Wow, speaking of being careful with electrical outlets, I just happen to have a story here in my back pocket that I found this morning about a man who went to plug in his cell phone & ended up a near-fatality."

The room gets silent. We clearly have a winner in the department of safety moments....really they're more like safety sagas. Does this dude just walk around with 8 different stories in his back pocket to silence all the competition?

Is this really necessary?

  • Having training on "how to cross the street" - i.e. look both ways
  • Night club safety - I heard about this at another company, where a rumored homosexual gave his take on safety moments. This one was actually really funny though! "When intoxicated, locate a secure building and locate a pay phone to call a friend." I wonder if they got into more specifics, like "make sure to use protection" and "Ladies, don't drink drinks given to you by strangers." I mean, really! That stuff is way more relevant than learning how to cross a street, or how to carry liquids in a building.
  • Driving assessments - Employees ride in the car with one another and rate how safely they drove (I'm not sure I'd still be employed if I were to take this test!)

When I actually needed safety moments/sagas

I wish, when I was teaching, that we would've had more safety moments...because in those situations, it would've been ok to make them into sagas. Like when I first started teaching, there was a group of serial killers that had killed several women outside my school....a safety saga/novel sure would've been useful! Or when a woman at convenience store was murdered and robbed down the street from the school, and we were "locked in" to our building......I would've really appreciated it then also! Instead, our principal came on the intercom and said "That due to an Ozone alert, we were to stay inside all day." My students & I knew something was up b/c 1. there was no Ozone alert that day, and 2. we never announced Ozone alerts on the intercom!

I can't wait for our next safety moment...maybe I'll be the initiator & talk about how a nasty divorced old guy tried to hit on me at a bar once, and how that's really 'unsafe.' Then I'll let the group of 40-year-old divorced/married men discuss, "one-up," and take articles out of back pockets on how scary they can be!


Blogger Alicia said...'s been a while and I feel it is my duty to update to add more great safety moment antecdotes. There are so many, it's difficult to know where to start. However, one that comes to mind is when Eileen tried to be resourceful/take initiative and fix the projector mounted to the ceiling, but doing the obvious thing...standing on the table to fix it. This became a safety moment of the severest kind.
Another GREAT example is at this big kick-off meeting we had in August. We had a 18 inch stage for speakers to come present. Well, I made the horrific mistake of stepping off the stage WITHOUT going doing the stairs. HOW COULD I SHIRK MY SAFETY RESPONSIBILITIES LIKE THIS??? I was definitely told I shouldn't do that and that I shouldn't let "Back Pocket Guy" see me.
Finally, we just received an email that in January it will be international safety week. Whoo Hoo!!!

2:45 PM

Anonymous Ben said...

Well it's good to see that you guys are not too cynical. I am a HSE Manager on an oil and gas project in Tengiz in Kazakhstan. As is often the case with non-project or admin people you have completely missed the point of safety moments. Once upon a time a project would have to insure against x number of people being killed and y number being injured to the point where they could never work again and so on through to the lucky ones who only required first aid treatment.

On the project that I am currently working on our work-group has just achieved 7 million man-hours without someone being injured to the point where they required more than first aid care. While using failures as a measure of success isn't a great idea in my mind it still represents a significant achievement. How has this been achieved? By placing safety at the forefront of everyone's mind. Safety moments are one of the key tools we can use to achieve this.

Unfortunately you sometimes end up with support or admin staff who can’t see how it really relates to them. As is seemingly the case with you it has become a bit of a joke. But rest assured it is not a problem with the tool it is a problem with the trademen (and/ or women). Safety only works effectively when the whole agrees that it is important to everyone. Safety moments allow us to explore how each of us individually relates to safety in our everyday lives. It is not a chance to point out wholly and solely the hazardous situations that we find ourselves in in our work-day. Your dismissive attitudes are what is transferred to others in your work-group. Maybe you yourself might not be in a safety critical position. But your attitude of safety as a bit of a joke could put someone who is in a safety critical position in danger.

Moreover, I’ve seen how safety is a pretty good measure of competence. In our business guys/ and girls who do safety well generally perform well in other areas of their job. I would bet that there is a good correlation between how people “do” safety and how good they are generally at their job. Not making any remarks to you guys though. I’m sure you are fantastic at your jobs.

10:29 PM

Blogger KingdomDriller said...

So with the recent deepwater horizon incident.

How come after filling in tens of thousands of pieces of safety 'moment' toolbox talks, JSA's, risk assessments, and every other type of bits of management CYA paper exercises to cover their rear.

Management allowed several accident events (i.e. non injury related ones!) to be non reported, not controlled nor investigated resulting in breach of industry standards, not following best ppractices, non compliance, major equipment failure, gas release, 11 people killed, and tens of billions of dollars of accidental loss.

What a safety moment? that we should all start top learn from!

6:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben mate the fact that you had to go to Tengiz for a job says it all, good luck.

2:48 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

99.9 % of workplace incidents are preventable. Unfortunately of those 99.9% nearly 90% have been identified as human error contributing to the event as a causal factor or root cause.

What this trend identifies is we have many safety systems available but there seems to be a behavioural element of people not taking their own personal safety serious.

By sharing experiences, (safety moment) can help us learn from our mistakes and help prevent these things reoccurring. So the next time you are privileged to attend a safety moment, take note that you have been given something that could have the potential to save a life! Sorry for caring!

7:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben - well said!

Other Posters - Tw@ts!

6:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

99.9 % of workplace incidents are preventable. Unfortunately of those 99.9% nearly 90% have been identified as human error contributing to the event as a causal factor or root cause.

WRONG, Proper root cause analysis will show that generally its management controls due to lack of training, lack of supervsion etc.

Cuplable blame normally lies with all those managers scoffing at the safety moments in fact!

8:49 PM


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