When a helicopter transporting Suncor workers lands on the floating production facility in the Terra Nova oil field, the offshore installation manager greets them upon arrival.
“He reinforces to the crew their commitment to safety, what’s happened in the last 21 days as far as safety and occupational incidents. He reinforces the behaviours that he expects and the culture that we are expected to exhibited,” says Brent Miller, asset manager at the Terra Nova site, which is located about 350 kilometres southeast of St. John’s, N.L.
This type of meeting is very important because the company’s 275 employees (and 112 contractors) need to undergo a psychological switch when they return offshore, as they have not been on site in three weeks.
“That has had a tremendous impact on getting people in the right frame of mind,” says Miller.
A few years ago, Suncor – East Coast Canada noticed it was logging a lot of hand injuries. It upped its cut and impact resistance requirements and found new gloves for workers to test. Worker feedback was used to determine the gloves that were ultimately chosen.
“It’s a great example of collaboration with the workforce but it also promotes their personal ownership of the initiative and really people are taking pride in the fact that they influenced this decision,” says Roger Crowley, team lead for environment and regulatory.
The health and safety team used this opportunity to reinforce safe work practices, and 2015 saw a 50 per cent reduction in hand injuries.
Recently, Suncor – East Coast Canada had a significant rollout on risk tolerance to make sure workers understand their role in managing their decisions when faced with a hazard.
“The rule of thumb for me is overreaction is better than under-reaction,” says Miller. “I would much rather people not be too sure and stop the job, and that is the kind of thing we are asking people to do.”
A robust communication campaign outlined behaviours people take in their day-to-day activities — consciously or subconsciously — that affect their decision-making. Supervisors also conducted on-the-job conversations with their workers about risk.
To accompany this, Suncor – East Coast Canada launched a mandatory field-level risk assessment — performed by workers — for every permit issued.
The company has also been communicating its “operational discipline behaviours” to all personnel, including dedicated training for front-line leaders. These behaviours set the expectations on how to work effectively and safely, and they include: seek knowledge and understanding; adhere to procedure; use a questioning attitude to surface problems; expect accountability; and collaboration.
“We have seen many examples of situations where what may have been accepted as a regular practice and maybe a small deviation from a written procedure is being flagged now to say, ‘You know what, this is not the way it’s written to do the job,’” says Crowley. “And if we need to revise a procedure to reflect the ideal safest way to perform the job, we are taking the time to do that.”