SPE Americas HSE Conference Begins With a Blast
Airhorns blasted through the first plenary session of the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, interrupting the talk and surprising attendees despite the prominent warning signs outside the venue warning of the potential noise. “How many of you actually expected airhorns to be used,” asked Tom Knode, the moderator of the session. Very few people raised their hands. The surprising stunt illustrated the ways our brains can disregard clear warnings.
Enhancing safety by understanding how the brain works was the premise of the session, and the following days’ plenary sessions will build on this brain-centric analysis of safety.
Speakers Nada Wentzel and Susan Koen presented an examination of the brain and its blind spots and how they apply to safety. Wentzel is global solutions director of The Jonah Group and started the conversation by looking at how the brain works and how an understanding of this can enhance safety.
“The bulk of our behavior is based on unconscious decisions,” she said. “So, consider that the real opportunity is for us to get interested in how we make decisions so that we are actually enabling people to be safer, to be better.”
Koen continued the brain discussion by demonstrating blindspots in the brain’s ability to detect hazards. Repetitive actions and fatigue can lead to the brain failing to register important information. “People have to actually learn the skill of noticing,” she said. “It has to be taught.”
Koen expanded the theme as a speaker at the second plenary session on the second day of the conference. She was joined by John Carroll, professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.
The Day 2 session, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Group Behavior and How To Reach the Culture Tipping Point,” expands the brain-centic view of safety from the individual to the group.