By: Chad Wilson | CEO
Let’s be candid, no one likes talking about mistakes, especially if you are the one who made the mistake. It is human nature to want to avoid the embarrassment and possible ramifications of our own mistakes. Most of us just want to move on with our lives as quickly as possible and, hopefully, put any of those situations behind us. In the Oil and Gas Industry, it is critical that we do not allow this to happen. When things go wrong here, they have the potential to go critically wrong and people die, environments are impacted and/or resources are lost.
It is an unfortunate side effect of our community that the legal systems, company shareholders and the ever present public image do not encourage our industry to be forthcoming with incidents and information when things go wrong. Regardless of your industry, the systemic problem is that we do not do a very good job of investigating why things go wrong nor do we strive to improve the process, equipment or training to help ensure the issue does not arise again.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2009 – 2012 our industry added 23% more workers to the oilfield. With that growth we also increased our death toll by more than 100% from 2009 – 2010. In 2013 our fatality rate was nearly eight times higher than other comparable industries combined (BLS average is 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers).
Again, citing the BLS; Texas accounted for roughly 40% of the 663 workers killed in oilfield-related deaths in 2014. Not only did we kill 663 people last year, Mercury’s home state is responsible for just under half of those deaths. This is beyond unacceptable. And, as horrific as those number are, we have little to no data on much of the remaining geographies around the globe.
How do we stop these potentially fatal mistakes from occurring? We must insist on holding ourselves and our coworkers accountable. While most people would dismiss the suggestion of “self-policing,” the reality is that we must demand it when we are in our work environment. If you see a broken piece of equipment or an unsafe activity being performed, it is your responsibility to take action, especially if someone is intentionally bypassing a safety check or not using the safety equipment as it is designed.
As a leader I hold myself and you accountable. In turn, you should be holding yourself and me accountable, as well as your colleagues. We should all be vigilant in always observing our environment and how our teams engage in the day to day activities of our jobs and the execution of our duties.
Furthermore, our focus should also be on the education and training of our employees and teammates. How many times have you witnessed a training class where the students were not paying attention or trying to hide from everyone that they are checking email on their phone? While you should hold the student responsible, you should also hold the instructor and the company providing the course responsible. If your company is supporting you and your colleagues to attend a class, you bear a responsibility to your employer and your teammates to ensure everyone has the knowledge and is fully capable of executing the instructions being given to the class.
We all have to work as a team. We all have a personal responsibility to our company, our community and our families. Any change needs to be supported by leadership, though the true change comes from within an organization when its people demand more from themselves and everyone around them. When something does go wrong, demand to know how it is being addressed and what steps will be taken to prevent repetition of the error.
Simply stated, the responsibility for decreasing mistakes and increasing safety through accountability and proper training is carried by us all.