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Developing new safety initiatives for the industry: Exclusive insights from the Chair of the Competence Workgroup at Step Change in Safety

19 April 2021 by Add Energy

Like most companies, health and safety is at the heart of our company values. Always at the forefront of our minds, we think about how each task could impact the quality, health, safety and environment, which has resulted in a number of our team members at Add Energy working closely with Step Change in Safety.

For those who don’t know, Step Change in Safety is a member-led organization that is working to make the UK continental shelf the safest oil and gas province in the world in which to work. The team of volunteers are committed to supporting the development of new initiatives and reviewing lessons learned within the industry, improving safety through engagement, leadership, and collaboration.AL_Linkedin_Top Considerations for a successful training session3

In our latest blog, we catch up with Mike Meen, one of Add Energy’s consultants and chair of the Competence Workgroup at Step Change in Safety on the importance of developing new safety initiatives within the industry.


What is the main aim of Step Change in Safety?

“Our aim is to improve the overall safety of the industry. If my work saves one person's life or minimizes the risk of injury, then it will be worth all the effort.

“We are educating the industry on the importance of competence and touching on topics which are new. It’s not just about reviewing what has happened in the past, it’s about digitalization and modernizing the workplace in readiness for energy transition.”

Why did you start working with Step Change in Safety?

“As you know, the industry in which we work can be quite dangerous. Accidents can often be no one’s fault, it is important that we understand why they happen and find solutions.

“I have to question anyone that says that they haven't got the time to help Step Change in Safety. You can be as involved as you like in the projects, and choose the level of support that you would like to provide based on your own circumstances as long as you are committed. We all have to be committed to improving the safety of our sector. Imagine a member of staff was involved in an incident and you have to tell the family that their son or daughter won’t be coming home tonight because they’re in hospital with a serious injury. You’d do anything in your power to prevent that from happening, it’s never just one person affected.

“It doesn’t take a great deal of time, but it does take commitment. I’d say I spend about 5 hours a month on the committee, between attending meetings, preparing for and hosting forums, reviewing content. But if it meant saving one life or removing the risk of one injury, I’d double my workload ten times over. Thankfully there is a great team working on behalf of Step Change in Safety alongside our committed volunteers.”

Can you tell us about your work with Step Change in Safety?

“I have been working with Step Change in Safety for five years now, and in that time the work has changed quite significantly.

“Our aim is to improve safety within the energy sector for companies operating within the UK continental shelf. We have found that as the organization grows in numbers, people from across the globe are interested in our work and asking if they can participate.

“Although the activities and members may vary, we have a core group that is a permanent fixture that oversees all activities and manages all administrative tasks, we also have a development team and what we call ‘Next Gen’.

“In our development team, which consists of volunteers, we look into a particular subject and develop guidance, whether that’s in the form of a video, presentation, or infographic. We’re very flexible in our approach, and will decide the medium in which we communicate our message based on the topic.”

“Our NextGen team was created to give younger people in the industry a say in how safety messages are communicated to their peers, so far we have had some fantastic concepts put forward for development and implementation is planned this year.

Why is the work important?

“It’s important that we support and educate our managers. It’s a dangerous environment that we work in and a great deal can go wrong. We have to enable our staff, giving them the tools to perform not just on time and on budget, but also deliver a quality service safely.

“As an example, when working on an emergency response project, it was my job to establish exactly what had gone wrong as part of the incident investigation. 18 months after the incident occurred and there were still so many unknowns.

“People were under so much pressure and the leadership team was fried. They were facing prosecution charges, which really left them exposed. As a manager you really need to think about these things, often there’s pressure to cut costs or change suppliers but you have to think about the long-term implications. Is this short-term win worth the risk in the long term?

Can you tell me more about the Step Change in Safety projects that you are working on?

“I work on a range of projects, so my work can vary depending on the topic. For example, last year there was a call from the industry to look at leadership and supervisory roles.

“During initial conversations, it sounded like people were implying that supervisors and managers across the sector were not competent. After gentle investigations, we established that this was not the case, it’s that some individuals have not developed their soft or what may be called ‘power’ skills. Examples such as situational awareness, communication, or emotional intelligence come to mind. People can be extremely competent in the technical aspects of their job but miss the opportunity to prevent an incident by not understanding the context of the job or listening to the staff properly

“Addressing the issue head-on, Step Change in Safety created a workgroup which was made up of volunteers from the Health and Safety Executive, OPITO, ECITB, and academics from Aberdeen University. During this time, we created a Guidance Document that focuses on the behavior aspects of these leadership and supervisory roles which includes a leadership and supervision guide, which is being rolled out now.”

Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

“The next project that we are working on is around the core competencies required to successfully achieve the industry’s energy transition goals, focusing mainly on digitalization.

“We will be looking at preparing the workforce for the energy transition and digitalization, looking at the transferable skills that staff already possess and how with some training, they can adapt and thrive as their roles change.

“We’re looking into apprenticeships and what we can include in the apprenticeships to make the oil and gas industry seem more appealing. With an increase in artificial intelligence, digitalization, and machine learning, we need to change the way we talk about the future of the industry. Especially when talking to young people who are thinking about their career choices.

“Our ‘Next Gen Team’ has been created with this in mind. By inviting younger people into the fold and recruiting a younger generation into forums and semi-governed organizations like Step Change in Safety, we are engaging with a younger audience and as a result, have a better understanding of how to communicate with them.”

How do the forums work?

“We run a range of forums throughout the year, all of which are open to all members and are completely free to attend. As long as people are willing to contribute and listen, they are more than welcome to join in.

“Typically, our events are attended by 40 - 60 individuals and are a representation of the offshore community, whether that’s OIMs, EIC, OPITO, the Health and Safety Executive, academics or individual companies - each person is given a platform to discuss their thoughts.”

How much work is involved in this?

“At the heart of Step Change in Safety, there is a great deal of activity. Although there is a core staff, a lot of the actions are completed by volunteers, myself included. Thanks to Add Energy for being so supportive, I am able to take time out of my day to work on these projects rather than trying to complete all of the work out of hours.”

What are the challenges faced when working with Step Change in Safety?

“Dealing with multiple organizations on a voluntary basis can be quite challenging. We are trying to influence some of the industry’s most senior people, whether that’s government organizations, operators, or regulators, the process remains the same.

“We have to make sure that the information is quick and easy to read and that the message is digestible. As well as educating, we also have to be willing to listen and establish compromises at times. It’s all about getting the right people to the table and getting them to agree to make changes.”

What are you hoping to achieve?

“Since Piper Alpha, it’s been a real journey, in terms of understanding the importance of competence when looking at safety issues.

“What I hope to achieve is very similar to the Step Change in Safety objectives. It’s all about teaching people the importance of competence and its impact on safety. Our achievements are getting adopted in the industry as we continue to look into how we can improve competencies to stop incidents from occurring.”

If you would like to learn more about the work that Step Change in Safety is doing, please visit Step Change in Safety | About

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