Leveraging Technology: Applying Safety Reliance to Operations

Thursday, May 02, 2019

By Wren Lemmon, M.S., CSP, OHST – Production Safety Manager, Danos


Traditionally in high-risk operations, two methods have driven our evolution to a safer workplace: identifying the hazards of worksite conditions and attempting to control an employee’s behavior. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law in 1970, worker health and safety has not adapted to new technology as fast as other business functions. Historically, several industries have allowed for job approval or disapproval based on the safety of a situation, but technology is allowing us to bridge this gap of what jobs may be considered safe. We see this slow adaptation in our everyday lives as well – decreasing speed limits and new traffic lights, which are typically done only after a multitude of traffic accidents.

Operational Safety – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Most safety programs are centered on a “5 P” approach. We develop programs, processes, procedures, policies and practices with the intent to confine safety into manageable boundaries to keep people safe. Although these practical mechanisms do add value, we cannot ignore the 481 hospitalizations and 166 amputations sustained by oil and gas production workers from 2015-2017[1]. We must continue our search for better solutions.

Leveraging Organizational “Resilience” to Operational Safety

Today’s operational safety management has become a self-organizing system. From “5-P” management to behavior-based observation initiatives that steer worker behavior using methods of consequence, these “systems” are essentially controlling factors of operational safety. If we change any part of the system, we rely on our capacity as humans to self-correct by identifying a change, managing it and adjusting to the change in variable conditions. But what if technology could shift the paradigm to not only reduce workplace risk exposure but also to add safeguards to improve resilience that could eliminate risks?

The main question with operational safety is what is feasible for the organization to control—

Policies and procedures? Sure.

Processes and programs? Absolutely.

People? Not at all. This is where technology can introduce capabilities and resources using enhanced methods to reduce risk exposure and potential accidents or injuries.

Operational Safety Resilience – Technological Applications

Logic suggests that the safest means of reducing operational risk is to undertake no risk at all. Because this is just not feasible, a more pragmatic alternative is the use of various technology. We know from the manufacturing industry that technological evolution has greatly affected quality and productivity. Specifically within the oil and gas industry, a paradigm shift toward efficiency is necessary. Operational exposures produce an inherently higher risk in an industry that has been slow to adopt technology because of work that is heavily driven by knowledge and experience.

When seeking methods to reduce risk exposure, we must be receptive to the ability to break from the norm of traditional operational safety methods and seek solutions that the oil and gas industry has conventionally been slow to embrace[2]. These include advanced competency assessment techniques using simulation and virtual reality training, artificial intelligence utilizing drone technology, and cloud computing to collect and interpret data. These sustainable solutions can provide companies with a means to operate in cost-prohibitive oil markets while optimizing growth and, most importantly, greatly reducing risk exposure regarding operational safety. For example, Danos is building capabilities to utilize unmanned aerial vehicles in lieu of physical, on-site corrosion and venting assessments. Ordinarily, a rope access technician may take weeks to accomplish such highly dangerous tasks in hazardous locations and conditions. By utilizing technology, we can mitigate these risks. For more information on technology solutions that Danos can provide, please call (985) 219-3313 and ask to speak to a member of our team.

[1] https://www.ishn.com/articles/108304-gaps-in-oil-gas-extraction-work-fatalities-and-severe-injury-statistics

[2] https://www.inc.com/andrew-medal/how-technology-is-saving-oil-gas-industry.html