Rigzone | 28 November 2014

Column: Is the US Energy Infrastructure Safe?

First, the good news regarding energy transportation in the United States: About 99.5% of all material transported by either railroad cars or pipelines reaches its destination. However, the accident rate is still too high, and it is even up slightly for gas liquids, even when adjusted for volumes and miles traveled. And most pipeline incidents are happening on new pipeline systems, not older ones, according to speakers at a recent Energy Symposium hosted by the University of Houston.

In recent years, with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in unconventional shale formations becoming the new norm, production levels for crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids have shot up, leaving the industry racing in the wake to build an infrastructure to catch up.

Safety Built-In | 18 November 2014

Column: The Energy/Attitude Dynamic in Safety Culture Development

“No one wants to work in an unsafe environment, right? Everyone wants to go home the same way they came in to work. So, why is it so hard to get people to get with the program?”

These questions were posed to me by an HSE professional tasked with safety culture development in his organization. As I thought about it, I was reminded of a model created by my partner, Claude Lineberry.

We were consulting partners, working to help companies introduce strategic change. Our clients had well-founded strategies and programs, and the end results were going to make the companies more effective and even better places to work. Yet, in addition to the strong support we were getting, there was still halfhearted acceptance and outright resistance.

Claude thought about the people who face change and realized that how they dealt with it depended upon their attitude about the change and the amount of energy they were willing to invest in that attitude. Based on that, he developed the Energy Investment Model to help guide organizations in dealing effectively with stakeholders when planning change or when undertaking safety culture development.

Digicast | 13 November 2014

Column: How Much Does Poor Safety Communication Cost Organizations?

According to a study by Siemens Enterprise Communications, a business with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. This translates to an annual cost of USD 528,443 (even higher for larger companies).

Where there are communication barriers, because of people misunderstanding information, there are also productivity losses. The same study found that the cumulative cost per worker per year is USD 26,041 just from communication barriers alone.

Being a clear communicator is crucial to being a highly effective safety leader. But it’s not just about being clear. It’s also about engaging others with your safety communication.

In fact, the number one return on investment for internal communication is engagement.

Poor engagement levels have a crippling effect on safety performance in organizations. Research by Towers Watson found that companies who rate highly for effectiveness were 4.5 times more likely to report high employee engagement than other firms.

Engaged employees are

  • Five times less likely to have a safety incident
  • Seven time less likely to a have a lost-time incident

E&E News | 4 November 2014

Drilling’s Safety Exemptions and How They Got There

In 1983, troubled by the high death rate in the oil field, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set out to impose a set of worker safety rules on drilling companies.

The effort backfired. As OSHA officials ushered the proposal through the process, they agreed to exempt drilling from other new rules on noise protection, machine safety, and preventing explosions. Those topics, they said, would be covered in the pending oil and gas rulebook.

But, when that proposal died, drilling companies wound up exempt from a suite of basic worker protections.

“It’s mind-boggling to me how many safety standards they’re exempt from,” said Dennis Schmitz, a trainer who leads the MonDaks Safety Network, a group of safety officials from companies in the Bakken Shale region. “What’s the culture that creates?”

In the 30 years since the drilling regulations were proposed, the industry’s death rate regularly has been among the highest in the United States. Current and former OSHA officials say the exemptions and the absence of the drilling regulations left safety inspectors with fewer tools to police an industry heavy with “unique hazards.”

Marketplace | 22 October 2014

Wyoming Sees Decline in Oil Worker Deaths

For more than a decade, Wyoming has been among the most dangerous places in the nation for workers. Deaths peaked in the late 2000s, at the height of the state’s natural gas drilling frenzy. In response, task forces were convened and safety alliances were formed to address what was billed as a problem with Wyoming’s “culture of safety.” The number of deaths has fallen in recent years, but has the safety culture changed, or did the drilling rigs just move on?

To help answer that question, reporter Stephanie Joyce recently visited former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal in the woodshop at his house in Cheyenne.

According to the former governor, there wasn’t a specific incident or moment that made him decide to address workplace safety, but it was pretty clear that it needed addressing. In the first week of 2009, three oil and gas workers died in Wyoming in separate accidents. One was crushed by a truck, another suffered a fatal head injury on a rig, and yet another rolled his car after leaving the drillsite. The tricky part, Freudenthal said, was figuring out what to do. “How do you change the way we deal with safety in general in a place like Wyoming?” he asked.

ProAct Safety | 15 October 2014

Column: Who Really Owns Safety?

If safety is more important than production, why does safety report up through Legal, Human Resources, or Production rather than production reporting up through the company’s No. 1 priority? If safety is so important, how many CEOs come from the safety department? Safety is a core value, and most organizations employ safety managers. But, if trust and honesty are also common corporate values, where are the trust and honesty managers? The answer lies with the uncomfortable truth: reality.

Not intending to sound flippant, and recognizing the importance of process, passion, and the technical and legal reasons for safety professionals, who “owns” safety is an important issue to be analyzed if excellence is the goal.

OptaSense | 2 October 2014

Award Nomination Recognizes OptaSense for Improving Hydraulic Fracturing Safety

OptaSense, a QinetiQ company and global leader in distributed acoustic sensing (DAS), has been recognized for its contribution to improving the safety of hydraulic fracturing. OptaSense’s DAS Hydraulic Fracture Profiling (DAS-HFP) service has been selected as a finalist for the World Oil Award in the Best Health, Safety, and Environment/Sustainable Development Onshore category.

The DAS-HFP service is used within hydraulic fracturing operations where OptaSense technology is used not only to improve the operational efficiency of hydraulic fracture stimulation but also to provide a real-time monitoring capability to verify well integrity.

OptaSense helps operators manage unplanned events such as flow behind casing, casing leaks and ruptures, casing collapse, and isolation failures between stimulation stages. This not only has economic value for optimizing a hydraulic fracturing program but also delivers significant value for environmental monitoring of fracture fluid breakthrough into other subsurface formations and freshwater aquifers because of wellbore barrier failure.

Currently, the American Petroleum Institute (API) regulatory guidelines state that the internal conduit of the well must be isolated from the surface and subsurface environments. However, conventional technologies are typically limited to pressure measurements at the wellhead and are inadequate for real-time detection and characterization of most failures other than catastrophic ones.

By contrast, the OptaSense DAS system provides a means to measure and monitor the performance of these barriers directly from wellhead to toe continuously and in real time. The system is used to detect, localize, and characterize barrier failure. It also detects fluid communication behind casing, casing collapse, and leaks through or between casing strings, many of which go unnoticed by conventional monitoring methods.

The World Oil Award nomination recognizes that the real-time data OptaSense delivers provides invaluable information to operators, greatly minimizing the environmental cost of a leak by early detection.

Magnus McEwen-King, OptaSense managing director, said, “It is an honor to be recognized alongside the major service companies in one of the industry’s most prestigious awards. Our DAS-HFP service is just one of several services provided over fiber-optics that improve the efficiency and safety of hydraulic fracture operations. Distributed fiber-optic sensing has the potential to provide monitoring throughout the life of the well. The ability to monitor the whole wellbore continuously enables operators to confirm wellbore integrity and better understand, diagnose, and correct sources of failure to improve operational effectiveness.”

The winners of the World Oil Awards will be announced at the ceremony held at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston on 16 October.

Read more about OptaSense here.

Rigzone | 2 October 2014

University of Pittsburgh Offers Safety Engineering Certificate Program

A new Safety Engineering Certificate program for graduate students has launched at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of engineering (SSoE). The program is headed by Associate Professor and Director of Safety Engineering Program Joel Haight, an 18-year manager and engineering veteran of Chevron.

The goal during the development of the Safety Engineering Program, which is made of three required courses and two courses from a list of electives, was to prepare engineers to meet the challenges that increased safety presents by training them in “the application and implementation of safety engineering concepts, principles and practices,” according to the SSoE. While the certificate is intended to provide training in safety engineering for engineers, it can be of benefit to those in nonengineering-based safety professions.

The courses in the program were first offered in the spring 2014 semester, but the actual certificate program just got under way for the fall semester. The program is offered within a classroom setting, as well as online, so that anyone around the globe with computer access can take the program.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners | 30 September 2014

TekSolv Wins Shale Gas Environmental, Health, and Safety Award for Gas Detector

Ben Franklin’s Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center (SGICC) announced its second annual Shale Gas Environmental, Health, & Safety (EH&S) Award at its recent Shale Insight 2014 Technology Showcase event. The Technology Showcase, sponsored by the SGICC, is the highlight of the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Shale Insight 2014 Pre-Conference Workshop and Conference.

The 2014 Shale Gas EH&S Award was presented to TekSolv for its development of a commercially available gas detection sensor system. The TekNet Gas Detection System effectively identifies explosive buildup of dangerous gases during the drilling and fracturing process. The advanced capabilities of the TekNet System were exhibited during an extensive demonstration effort supported by one of the more active operators in the Marcellus shale. The technology brings an entirely new platform to market that is especially effective and accurate at monitoring the buildup of gases in wet gas operations, a focus of the shale energy play.

Bill Hall, executive director of SGICC, said, “It is paramount to the success of the shale energy industry that they operate in an environmentally responsible, safe manner, continuing to earn the trust and respect of the average citizen, as well as the workers they employ, and the communities in which they operate. Ben Franklin’s Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center is proud to make the announcement of our second annual EH&S award to TekSolv.”

Houston Public Media | 22 September 2014

Texas Efforts To Improve Oil Traffic Safety Yield Mixed Success

In 2013, the Texas Legislature took up House Bill 2741, a measure to toughen the state’s trucking regulations. The bill passed, and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law. It includes language designed to help the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) crack down on rogue trucking operations.

Every time a truck driver is cited by law enforcement for a safety violation, it’s a black mark against his employer. Too low a safety score and the state can force the carrier to close.

“Heretofore, that company would shut its doors as ‘Andrew’s Trucking’ and open its doors in the same location, same brick and mortar, same address, as ‘John’s Trucking’ with a clean slate,” says John Esparza, president of the Texas Trucking Alliance, a trade group based in San Antonio.

Esparza calls such haulers “chameleon carriers.” Under HB 2741, which his organization supported, the Texas DMV now has the power to block chameleons from getting the permits they need to operate.

Denying permits isn’t always enough to shut down a rogue hauler. The Department of Public Safety ordered Houston-based R&F Quality Transportation to shut down last December, after a long string of violations. It was still operating in April, when one of its drivers struck and killed Vilma Marenco less than a mile from her home.

EHS Today | 10 September 2014

Column: Is ‘Safety Culture’ Dead?

In 1988, after the incident at Chernobyl, a new term arrived to arm safety professionals the world over. The report of the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) coined the term “safety culture.” This concept quickly was embraced and refined over the next few years, but the definition from the INSAG report stuck around:

“The safety culture of an organization is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organization’s health and safety management.

Organizations with a positive safety culture are characterized by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety, and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”

When I first heard about safety culture, I thought it made a lot of sense, and, admittedly, I embraced the concept. Since then, I have worked in various places, and I successfully have driven cultural change. Over that time, I have become less and less convinced of the existence of “safety culture” as my understanding of organizational dynamics has evolved.

Fabricating and Metalworking | 10 September 2014

Column: Safety as Sustainability

Once upon a time, sustainability was a nonissue in business because it seemed pretty simple: keep getting sales orders, deliver in a way the customer stays happy, and everything else takes care of itself. As business ramped up into our current hyper-competitive environment, supply chain managers began to carefully scrutinize what their partners were doing to ensure that their operations would be sustained and they would be around in the future.

Part of this scrutiny dealt with “sustainability” related to environmental management, the practice of making responsible business moves that do not place the short-term financial interests of the company before the long-term needs of the ecological environment. Business decisions are scrutinized to make sure they consider the physical, chemical, and biotic factors acting upon the ecological community.

Now, sustainability is increasingly being viewed through a much wider lens that scrutinizes the business footprint being left on the environment, the community, and, to some extent, global politics. Until recently, for example, few small and midsized manufacturers worried about using so-called “conflict minerals” that originate from regions of the world being torn apart by military conflicts that are, in turn, often funded by the consumption of these same minerals. Yet today, many companies are now required by law to prove that they aren’t buying conflict minerals.

What does this wider view of sustainability have to do with worker safety? Safety—or more accurately, the lack of safety—can play a profound role in the level to which a company is considered sustainable.