Global joint integrity specialist Hydratight is highly focussed on safe practices within its operations. The company has introduced several initiatives that illustrate the immense value it places on continuous personal development and safety at all levels, instilling the concept of safety into the DNA of all companies in the oil and gas, mining and energy and industrial sectors.
To the question how Hydratight is able to maintain a strong safety record in some of the most dangerous industries in the world, Hydratight Asia-Pacific Regional Leader Dean Jenkins replies that this is the task facing many industry operators in the 21st century, and one that must increasingly be addressed by resource and energy companies of all sizes following the tragic events in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the vast cost, both to human life and the environment that resulted from it.
Though it is impossible to say whether tougher safety measures would have prevented the Gulf disaster, Governments around the world have nonetheless embarked upon major reviews, investigations and discussions to strengthen legislation governing safety.
Regardless of major disaster or legislation, smaller but still costly and damaging cases of neglect and error often occur throughout industry every week. Hydratight believes these ‘day-to-day’ events can be addressed by developing the correct safety culture throughout the organisation.
As a company, Hydratight puts safety and integrity in any job ahead of profit and expediency. In the past the company has preferred not to quote for work where safe operation might be compromised, and continues to do so.
It is partly for this reason that Hydratight's adherence to safety-in-work principles is being extended to clients, and to outside bodies inducting newcomers to industries served by the company, including oil and gas, mining and energy and industrial.
Believing that safety should be the goal of everyone within industry, the company, by extending its accredited, internationally-recognised training courses, is helping to create a growing core of well-trained, safe-working technicians, taught by some of the industry's most experienced engineers operating around the world, all working to a higher, common standard.
Some companies believe safe working practices can be fostered by offering rules and guidelines reinforced by annual or monthly award schemes, or even financial prizes. Hydratight believes safe working calls for more than just award or prize systems; the philosophy of safety is built into the Hydratight DNA. However, in-house awards do reward positive feedback from clients and fellow workers, encouraging the highest standards from Hydratight service engineers in the field.
Hydratight has introduced several initiatives to illustrate the immense value it places on continuous personal development and safety at all levels. Among these are mentoring initiatives; global learning days, in which every member of staff in over 30 countries is encouraged to undertake an extra-curricular training session; and performance management.
The company also educates staff with regular briefings on the ways training and development can affect personal performance and, in turn, overall company performance.
Building safety systems into everyday operations need not be very costly, but it does require an organisation to take them seriously, to take ownership of safety matters and protect them against the lethargy, cost-cutting and negligence that weaken them and expose the company to greater danger, injury and damaging investigation and litigation.
Awareness is an important facet of safety on site - everyone with an influence on safety, whether managers, site supervisors, team leaders or individual colleagues, should be aware of the safety system through publications, meetings, regular briefings and continual reinforcement of the message. It takes only one person to operate dangerously, but many to deal with the consequences.
Management tools to permit the system's implementation such as risk assessment, competence management, practice controls, records and data management all have a significant role to play.
There is an old-school idea that safety isn’t in the rulebook but in the head; that common sense and experience are vital prerequisites for safety to be maintained across company operations. While this is to some extent true, modern working practices simply don’t permit individuals to decide for themselves what might be safe and what might not: the industry is too complex and operations and processes too wide-ranging for any one person to assume full knowledge and understanding in every situation.
If nothing else, accident investigation and correction can operate only on what has happened and was documented, not what was going on in the head of the individuals involved in the incident.
Best practice needs to be adopted everywhere, with procedures specific to each operation. There needs to be a plan for proper procedure and inspection, and all the data needed by trained personnel to do their job properly needs to be available on demand.
In the best implementations, where training and skills are given a high significance, management also needs a way to know which personnel are able to undertake specific tasks. Hydratight wouldn't allow a relatively new recruit to work on a high-pressure, high-temperature line that carries lethal chemicals, for example, so managers need to know exactly who is capable of doing what, and what stage of training has been reached by each technician. Only when this information is fully recorded and available can a definitive team be put together to carry out any job.
When asked whether this company-wide adherence to safety matters really works in practice, Mr Jenkins said that all Hydratight personnel are encouraged to report unsafe work practices, and all incident reports are overseen by the head of the company. A senior committee under his guidance then monitors every incident reported, and may make recommendations that are relayed to each of Hydratight's 30 global outlets, ensuring the same factors cannot result in a similar problem elsewhere. Such incidents also inform the development of constantly-reviewed in-house safety policies. A dedicated section of the company intranet distributes safety bulletins globally, as does a special newsletter for each region of operations.
Hydratight’s total focus on safety does not take up a lot of management time, according to Mr Jenkins who says that it becomes part of the rhythm of the business. In recent years, reported incidents have fallen to an all-time low and the company is aiming for Target Zero.