Oil and Gas Urged to “Internalize” Safety Culture

“Our ability to ensure the highest level of safety and responsibility in the world depends in large part on the ability of the industry to internalize the need for a robust safety culture,” noted U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director, James A. Watson, in his April 30 address to the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) held in Houston, TX.  “[It also depends on the ability] to understand that safety does not simply mean doing things right when the BSEE inspector is on board.  It means operating safely at all levels, at all times.  It is the responsibility of everyone in this room to help instill that culture into their organizations.” 

In his address, Watson makes special reference to the Deepwater Horizon explosion that occurred just two years ago, and the aggressive regulatory reforms that resulted from that incident.

from compliance to culture safety leadership workshops

Unfortunately (but predictably), Watson’s address focuses mostly on legislation and compliance as the path to a “safety culture.”  But while compliance is indeed a necessary foundation of any safety culture, it neither creates nor results in a “culture” on its own.  That requires a different way of thinking about safety, adoption of safety as a core value, and a different way of “internalizing” safety–not as a compliance regulation we follow and enforce, but as a belief and culture we lead.

Watson comes close to this with his reference to an “internalized” safety culture that must be “instilled” by the members of his audience, but then misses the opportunity to explain how that’s accomplished outside of mere compliance.

Full article and videos on Watson’s address available here.  Watson’s prepared remarks available here.

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Eric Svendsen

Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.

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