The Ministry of Petroleum’s Annual Safety Day 2018, held on December 6 at the Egyptian Drilling Company’s (EDC) headquarters in Cairo, brought together oil and gas leaders to discuss safety culture, leadership, and best practices.

The event, organized by EDC and sponsored by Apache, started with an opening speech by Eng. Mohamed Saafan, First Undersecretary for Oil Affairs at the Ministry of Petroleum, on behalf of minister Eng. Tarek El Molla.

“This event is very important. I see it growing every year, and it gives insights on the ministry’s keenness on safety, which continuously improves year after year,” he said.

Saafan also disclosed that “minister El Molla assigned the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), headed by Abed Ezz El Regal, and holding companies to prepare a full review for health, safety and environment (HSE) systems, including all related subjects, such as equipment, employees, and training, consulting experts in this field.”

Representatives from EDC, Apache, BP, IEOC, and Shell also gave their opening remarks.

”EDC is honored to host the safety day sponsored by Apache. This event aims to assure the safety of ourselves and our children,” said Salah Abdelkareem, former EDC Chairman and Managing Director, currently Chairman at Bapetcow.

For Gasser Hanter, Shell Egypt Country Chairman, discussing safety does not mean looking at simply decreasing accidents, but rather completely eliminating them. “Our aim is zero harm for people and the environment,” he said.

In order to achieve this goal, Kareem Alaa, BP Egypt General Manager, highlighted on his speech that sharing failures is necessary to improve safety. “I would like to encourage all of us to exchange different experiences, especially after accidents, to ensure they do not happen again.”

“We must show purposeful leadership on the safety front,” said Ken Neupert, HSSE VP at Apache.

Fabio Cavanna, General Manager of Eni subsidiary IEOC, also emphasized the role of leadership. “We are all here to demonstrate that safety leadership is fundamental and our commitment towards safety is mandatory.”

IOGP Life-saving Rules

The opening speeches were followed by two informative presentations. The first one, presented by Chris Hawkes, Health, Safety and Security Director at the International Association of Oil & Gas Procedures (IOGP), introduced the IOGP life-saving rules.

IOGP has produced its life-saving rules based on the recent performance analysis of the employees. According to Hawkes, the rules were developed in order to provide workers in the industry with applicable and relevant actions to protect themselves and their colleagues.

He also explained that IOGP previously had a total of 20 rules, which were subsequently simplified and reduced to nine in order to make them easy to understand and memorize, avoiding confusion.

“In order to keep our workforce alive, we need to work together, side by side, in the industry,” said Hawkes, stressing the importance of collaboration to assure safety rules are well implemented. “Any one operator on their own can make very little impact. Working together as an industry, the impact we can make is much greater.”

If an employee does not follow the rules, Hawkes argues it is important to first understand the reasons for not following them to avoid repetition and ensure safety reveals in the workplace.

“We hope to see the IOGP life-saving rules become universally accepted and applied,” he added.

Safety Best Practices

The second presentation, made by the President of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), Rixio E. Medina, tackled safety leadership and culture change. Throughout the presentation, Medina discussed what leaders should adopt to ensure safety procedures are applied.

“I like to define safety leadership as what we, as leaders, think, say, do and measure to prevent undesirable events that can harm workers and affect operational success,” he said.

There are seven best practices in safety leadership: vision; credibility; action-oriented; collaboration; communication; recognition and feedback; and responsibility and accountability.

In order to establish the vision, Medina suggested companies “describe a compelling picture of what the company’s future could be,” which in return should inspire the employees about the safety values and vision they should implement.

For achieving credibility, companies must “treat others with respect and dignity,” he said. The action-oriented practice consists of taking advantage of safety improvement opportunities as soon as they are detected. The recognition and feedback practice creates opportunities to recognize people and celebrate work done safely, while responsibility and accountability means clearly establishing responsibilities for the employees and make them accountable for meeting their commitments.

For Medina, safety has to be established as a culture. Safety culture refers to a “combination of group values and behaviors” that determine how safety is implemented in the organization to protect its people, he explained. In simple terms, it refers to how activities are performed and “how the employees and the contractors behave when no one is watching.”

Medina guaranteed that, if best practices are achieved, safety culture is established as consequence. “Safety leadership is the wheel in creating successful safety culture,” he concluded.

Changing HSE Culture

Following the safety presentations, a series of three back-to-back panel discussions took place. The session featured health, safety and environmental (HSE) professionals from the largest international oil companies (IOCs) operating in Egypt, alongside representatives from Egypt’s national oil companies (NOCs). Topics included how to change HSE culture; empowerment of future leaders; and the relationship between operator and contractor in improving safety standards.

The first panel discussion of the day focused on HSE culture within oil and gas companies: how to promote a positive safety environment across companies, and – most importantly – how to make it sustainable. Participants included Hesham Elamroussy, Chairman and Managing Director at ExxonMobil Egypt; Cees de Regt, Business Development Manager Downstream at DNV; Eng. Salah Abdelkareem, Chairman and Managing Director at the Egyptian Drilling Company (EDC); and Johan van der Westhuyzen, Regional Director of Turkey, Middle East & Sub-Saharan Africa at DuPont. The panel was moderated by Egypt Oil & Gas Managing Director Mohamed Fouad.

Eng. Salah kicked off the discussion by highlighting the importance of digitalization and modern technology as a means to uphold and improve current safety regimes. By capturing and analyzing data, companies will obtain predictive power, enabling them to better anticipate future problems and put plans in place accordingly.

However, de Regt said that managerial improvements can only go so far in improving a company’s HSE standards. Unless they take root in the company and employees act upon them, it will be hard to effect meaningful change, he argued. “It is not enough to just have safety management systems,” de Regt said. “It needs to be implemented, we need a safety culture which is embedded in the management system.”

Echoing de Regt’s comments, Elamroussy emphasized the importance of developing a system in which employees hold each other to account and everyone is encouraged to actively participate in maintaining health and safety codes. “The culture of safety is improved by leaders who set expectations, they put in the structure, they lead by example,” he said. “In ExxonMobil, we have safety embedded in our organization…An environment where everybody is encouraged to intervene.”

Van der Westhuyzen noted a particularly problematic area for DuPont – shift handovers. Handovers are particularly important in ensuring information is communicated to employees beginning their shift and maintaining continuity in the workplace. “We found that when we focused on shift handovers we really helped building those leading metrics,” he said. “We started seeing the safety culture come alive across the whole organization.”

Ending the discussion, Van der Westhuyzen raised the important issue of how HSE training is delivered, noting that training courses should be adapted to the needs of millennials. “We need to think about doing capacity-building in a way that reaches the target audience,” van der Westhuyzen said. “The youngsters today want everything on their phone. We have tried to make training appealing to the target audience”, adding that the means used to deliver the training play a big role in determining its impact on the workplace.

HSE Leadership

The second panel of the day tackled HSE leadership, and how the oil and gas sector can collaborate to produce the next generation’s leaders. Panelists included IOGP’s Chris Hawkes; Stuart Shaw, Vice President of Operations at BP Egypt; Luciano Scataglini, Upstream Safety Manager at Eni; and Sameh Sayed Abdelrazek, Assistant Chairman for Occupational Health at the EGAS. On hand to moderate was Mark Konecki, Region Operations Director at Apache.

Abdelrazek opened the discussion by talking about EGAS’s experience working with Eni on the Zohr megaproject. “Zohr requires proactive leadership and management practices. Both EGAS and Eni HSE leaders have considered the possibilities of shared leadership practices,” Abdelrazek said. “The plan focused on compliance with the project’s HSE requirements, encouraging increased HSE supervision. This means one HSE officer for each 40 workers in compliance with international requirements.”

Konecki then asked Hawkes about the role of a good leaders during the implementation of new HSE rules. “The key piece of advice is practice what you preach,” Hawkes said. “Leaders clearly need to be engaged with the life-saving rules, and they need to understand the circumstances in which they work.”

However, ensuring high HSE performance is not just down to competent leadership, Hawkes said. It is critical that the company makes it as easy as possible for workers to comply with the rules. “The next important aspect of leadership is to make sure the circumstances allow them to follow the life-saving rules,” he added. “If the safety equipment is substandard or has not been inspected properly, the worker cannot follow the life-saving rules.”

Eni’s Scataglini suggested that leaders should place more emphasis on working with frontline workers if companies are to experience a transformative HSE performance. “We need to focus on the frontline workers,” Scataglini said.

“One of the main aspects is to implement coaching. A taskforce that works with people on site and identify hazards, discuss with them the solutions and make them promote safety culture awareness.” Hawkes agreed with Scataglini’s comment. “It’s about getting to the frontline, showing that I understand their issues and their challenges, trying to make their lives a little bit easier, showing that I care about their wellbeing, and make their workplace as safe as I can,” he said.

Shaw argued that it is important for leaders to make an “emotional connection” to HSE guidelines, suggesting that this could help HSE standards permeate through the workplace. “Can we talk about [safety] with emotion and conviction? If we can talk about safety with emotion and we can demonstrate how we care, that really has a profound impact,” he said.

Operator/Contractor Partnering to Improve Safety Culture

The final session of the day saw panelists dissect the relationship that oil and gas companies have with their contractors, and discuss the ways that they can work together to improve HSE standards across the contractor chain.

On the panel was Ken Neufert, Operations Director at Apache; Khalid Aljahwari, General Manager of Operations at Badr Petroleum Company (Bapetco); ASSP’s Rixio E. Medina; and Tarek Adly, HSE consultant at Petrojet. Ehab Erfan, Business Support Chief Officer at EDC, moderated the discussion.

Neupert said that he favors a more distant relationship with contractors regarding safety standards, suggesting that contractors should work to their own HSE standards without collaboration with the operating company. “I don’t believe it is incumbent on us to set their safety expectation,” he said. “Our best practice is to have offsite meeting before the project starts…We listen to them and see what they have as safety expectations.”

However, Aljahwari disagreed with this, and advocated building close partnerships between the operating and contractor companies. “Most the IOCs, you look down at your contractors, but we need to start looking at contractors as real partners,” Aljahwari said. “You can listen to them and you can learn from them. They understand the culture, they understand the people, and they understand the rules.” By developing a close working relationship, both parties can benefit from the transfer of knowledge and best practice skills that goes in both directions.

The event was closed with positive feedback from attendees, who praised EDC for the hospitality and for successfully organizing the event.