Expansion in Mexico Puts Spotlight on HSE Expectations
With the recent changes to Mexico’s constitution, many global exploration and production (E&P) operators and service companies are currently entering Mexico for the first time. To tap Mexico’s vast offshore resources, operators will call on state-of-the-art E&P technology. A key enabler to this anticipated growth is aligning Mexico’s new regulatory requirements and existing health, safety, environment, and sustainability culture. Strong performance in this arena offers a wide range of benefits, assists with meeting local requirements, and minimizes operational risk for all participants.
Focusing on the theme Collaboration for Future Growth, SPE held its first health, safety, and environment (HSE) symposium in Mexico 30–31 March 2016 to share process improvements, technological advancements, and innovative applications that will enhance HSE performance in Mexico’s emerging market. As with other SPE events of this type, its success lies in an open exchange of ideas, which was certainly the case given the very active participation of the attendees during the various technical sessions and panels.
One such panel, titled Growing Importance of HSSE-SR, focused on addressing the importance and impact that health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility (HSSE-SR) have on all aspects of the oil and gas industry’s activities. The panel addressed the challenges facing operators, service companies, and others working to safely explore, develop, and produce oil and gas resources in a manner that is compatible with the balanced environmental and economic needs of the communities in which they operate. A key objective of the panel was to stress how the industry must effectively address the broad HSSE-SR expectations as a means to earn and protect the trust of all public and private stakeholders.
The panel was moderated by Roland Moreau, SPE vice president of finance and former HSSE-SR technical director. The panelists were
- Charlie Williams, executive director of the Center for Offshore Safety
- Salwan Ibrahim, technical advisor of offshore medical services for International SOS
- Brian Sullivan, executive director of IPIECA, a global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues
- Dean Slocum, founder and principal of Acorn International, a leading advisor to the international energy and extractives industries on social and environmental risk management
Highlights from each of the panelists follow. If you wish to delve into more detail about any of the topics discussed, please contact the panelists individually using the noted contact information.
Safety and Environment Management Systems, more frequently referred to as SEMS, is a performance-based approach to building and maintaining a strong culture of safety for oil and gas exploration. Williams addressed the role of data collection and analysis as a cornerstone to continual improvement of a company’s safety management. Based on the idea that the strength of any company’s safety management is the strength and quality of its “barriers,” the Center for Offshore Safety (COS) has developed and implemented a program to collect safety performance indicator (SPI) data related to the strength of COS member barriers. COS uses this SPI data, along with related learning-from-incident (LFI) submissions, to help guide future activities of the COS. This program has already resulted in the publication of guidance for effective leadership site engagements, as well as tools and guidance to assist companies in the execution of an effective audit of their SEMS program.
Duty of care is the basis of all occupational health and wellbeing promotional programs. Understanding that health is not merely the absence of physical disease but also includes social and psychological wellbeing is important, and this concept travels across the boundaries of sites and projects to have an influence on employees’ families and the communities around them. Investment in wellbeing programs, therefore, is a key tool to implement corporate social responsibility in addition to its positive effect on achieving operational goals and critical for business continuity.
Various corporations and companies have evolved through various stages in relation to the integration of a wellness agenda in their overall systems:
- Fitness for Work Phase. Initial programs are observed in many locations, satisfying the company’s desire to ensure that they have the right workforce from a health point of view and have established a checkpoint for wellbeing review at the start of employment and then on regular intervals.
- Fitness at Work Phase. This is the next level concept, where the focus has shifted to include the wellbeing of the workforce while performing the job, so the workplace starts to become a center for health promotion. This also leads to a shift in allocating resources for proactive prevention (primary prevention) of health risks at work beyond just being able to respond (reactive or tertiary prevention).
- Fitness for Life Phase. This is the advanced stage, wherein wellness drive extends to the community and the site or the project becomes part of the bigger picture in serving the upgrade of society wellness.
Examples of wellness programs are many, including weight-reduction and -management programs, diabetes control, smoking cessation, infectious diseases prevention, and travel health. Each one is different in terms of content, target audience, individuals vs. groups, and associated activities for example.
However, in the design of any successful wellness programs, the following criteria are essential:
- It is employee centered and focused.
- It is based on the worksite-risk assessment, identifying health threats at work and establishing means of mitigation.
- It adopts a phased approach that is progressive but made specific to the company’s policies and work environment.
- It establishes proper communication channels, such as direct employee or group interaction vs. indirect and multimedia tools.
- It includes rapid and facilitated access to medical services when needed if a health-related concern is identified.
The IPIECA is a forum for the global industry to share knowledge and good practice and respond to emerging issues through collaboration. One topic that highlights a key challenge facing the industry is this challenging market and finding a way to enable the industry to deal with it efficiently.
In this market, the industry can ill-afford downtime resulting from poor environmental and social performance. Collaboration, where it makes sense to do so, are an efficient way forward to enable improvements in performance.
An example of IPIECA’s work is the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services Fundamentals guidance. The result of collaboration between 31 companies, it provides advice about applying fundamental practices through the asset life cycle.
Symposium participants agreed that getting social responsibility right is critical to the success of E&P ventures. Slocum took us a level deeper to examine why one element of corporate social responsibility (CSR)—human rights—is such an important and challenging emerging issue for the industry. “Every one of you will be far more directly involved in and responsible for human rights issues in your operations in the next 5 years than in the last 5,” he said, “so it’s critical to understand the fundamentals and risks.”
Business risks related to human rights affect decisions about labor, contracting, security, and community impact management. Risk associated with human rights and other nontechnical risks are critical to the industry for three main reasons:
- Unlike financial, engineering, reservoir, or safety risks, they are extremely sensitive to local community interpretation and require local community involvement in generating solutions.
- We lack the established models for defining financial and technical risks when it comes to understanding human rights and other nontechnical risks, although an important body of “good international industry practice” guidance is emerging.
- Management of human rights issues is becoming an increasingly influential determinant in the success or failure of capital investments and operations in the industry, particularly in countries such as Mexico that are opening to new investment in developing their reserves.
Slocum highlighted some key human rights risks facing the oil and gas industry, provided an outlook of how these risks will evolve in influencing projects and operations, and offered a glimpse of what measures the industry should take to better tend to its responsibility for proactively respecting human rights.