Steve Beckett: Oil and gas industry workplace safety

Steve Beckett is a safety expert at Shell. He spoke with EarthSky about some of his company’s methods and goals for keeping people safe in the hazardous workplaces often found in oil and natural gas production.

These podcasts are part of a special series on safety in the oil and gas industry, made possible in part by Shell.

Steve Beckett: People go to work for a whole number of reasons. A lot of it is about providing for your family, providing for the next generation. And if I get hurt at work, who’s going to look after my family?

Steve Beckett is a safety expert at Shell. He spoke with EarthSky about some of his company’s methods and goals for keeping people safe in the hazardous workplaces often found in oil and natural gas production. Beckett said Shell uses the term Goal Zero to describe its vision of zero injuries on the job, and its yielded millions of injury-free hours worked. He said Goal Zero starts with training aimed at instilling a sense of ownership – and community.

Steve Beckett: Where we are now really looking at is the human interface, looking at human behavior, how people can work more safely, how people can be more safe at their jobs. And that’s really what behavioral safety is all about. If we’re going to get to a situation where there isn’t any harm, where people can feel confident that they can come to work and know that they and their loved ones are going to go home safe, it’s really about human behavior.

Beckett said his company’s goal is to motivate people to do the right thing on their own.

Steve Beckett: I’ll give a simple and real example. If you were developing some procedures for a particular job, whether it happens to be changing a valve, or putting up some scaffolding and doing a painting job, if you can involve the people who are doing that job in writing those procedures and in putting that work plan together, and make the people who are doing the job feel they have some kind of choice they’ve contributed to that plan, then they feel as though they have some real ownership. And having that ownership means that they’ve become committed.

Also, he said, to create a safe workplace, it’s important for people to realize that there are consequences for their actions, both positive and negative.

Steve Beckett: What we want to do is create conditions that work where people are driven by positive consequence. We want to recognize and reward people who do the right thing and who behave correctly at work. But we also mustn’t be afraid to also hold people accountable if their behavior is falling below expectations.

Beckett says what’s key to workplace safety is creating conditions where people can work safely because they want to.

Steve Beckett: You can have the greatest hardware in the world. You can have some wonderful management systems and processes and procedures. But if people don’t follow those procedures because they feel they’re unworkable, or if people don’t respect the guarding or the handrails or whatever, all the hardware you’ve put up, if they feel it prevents them from doing the job, they’re not going to work safely and people are still going to get hurt. Motivating people to do the right thing – that’s what we have to work towards if we’re ever going to create a real, lasting Goal Zero culture.

Jorge Salazar