Interview with Dr Robin Bryden – Part 6/6: Case studies

In the final part of this interview, Dr Robin Bryden reflects on some of the major successes in improving safety where Hearts and Minds has been used. Given the nature of the toolkit, Robin highlights how sometimes it is difficult to measure the real impact of Hearts and Minds whilst raising standards, particularly when some of the activities become intrinsically linked and connected to standard practices:

 “The most recent Hearts and Minds success story comes from the SEPC facility in Singapore (see Petroleum Review May 2010 issue). However, Nigeria was always very successful.  They did a lot of work with Hearts and Minds in Nigeria– in fact Shell appointed a dedicated Hearts and Minds manager responsible across all of Africa.  This person championed Hearts and Minds and worked hard to make it sustainable, getting it embedded into the line and then continued to get a sustained good performance.  One of the most memorable events for me was in Nigeria, and I was in what is essentially a swamp area watching the workshop supervisor run an exercise from Working safely with a piece of chalk – there was no electricity at that point, and this supervisor was working with a group of welders doing a hazard spotting exercise, marking hazards on the side of a wall with some chalk, and these guys were identifying the hazards around the workplace.  I thought to myself “Well, that’s brilliant”; no appliances involved, and on the face of it a very low level of technology being used, but these guys had better hazard recognition than you find in many European workplaces.  It’s nice to see something you worked on be used like that, it’s very humbling.

In Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Brunei, they have had a lot of success with Hearts and Minds.  I think they are among the best performers in Shell, and they’ve been using Hearts and Minds since the beginning.  But they started very slowly, very steadily, they didn’t try to do too much at once and they slowly changed some of the things they were doing.  Over time the Hearts and Minds terminology got into the language and formed part of their training.  For example, Improving supervision was a big success there.  The managers/supervisors would identify the level of skill and competence of their team, as well as the level of their motivation, and they would then identify the best management style to suit their team’s competence and skill.  This is only one element of one tool, but it’s formed a big part of their leadership training – if you go to any manager in the Asia Pacific region and ask them about this concept, they’ll tell you where their teams fall and which leadership styles are most appropriate.  That has become ingrained in management development.

Whilst we can see that performance has improved, it is hard to quantify success, and harder still to pin it down purely to Hearts and Minds.  You always want to see that you are improving, but managing safety is a dynamic thing and involves managing a massive amount of stuff.  If you watch a duck swimming upstream it looks so graceful on the surface, but its little legs are kicking like mad under the surface.  The company I am Safety Manager in, Sakhalin Energy, has turned around its Safety Performance now and seen an incredible improvement, and part of that is to do with Hearts and Minds, but we’re also doing a lot of other things as well.  Good performance depends on a number of factors coming together, and then to consistently keep on doing it.  You can do all the right things 99% of the time and that 1% will catch you out and you’ll have an incident. 

I’ll give you an example.  We’d made a lot of improvements throughout most of Sakhalin, however this one piece of the organisation, for multiple reasons, didn’t go on the same cultural improvement journey the rest of the organisation did.  It was piece of the organisation that, within a $20 billion project, was very low on money, low exposure in terms of man hours, but still involved risk, and they were so small they just slipped under the radar and did not get the same level of attention that we gave the other areas of the company.  It was only after they had two nasty incidents last year, both involving companies working for this small project, when this came to light.  One of the incidents had the potential to kill somebody and the other one resulted in someone losing a finger.  On the second incident, I got involved in the investigation myself, and I realised they were working without a permit to work system.  They were working with 100% compliance with the Russian system which only specifies that you need a permit to work system when working with very heavy lifts or high voltage, but they weren’t working to our standards, largely because we had not included them in our larger improvement plans.  So although we’d done a lot of work with major projects, we’d suddenly realised that there were small projects out there that could still be having incidents and we might not know.  It’s not that straightforward to measure the improvement that a HSE improvement project such as Hearts and Minds has been having, because it may be being applied differentially around the company, but it is certainly possible to look for the evidence, especially where Hearts and Minds hasn’t been applied.”

Our thanks go to Dr Robin Bryden for sharing his thoughts and experiences with the EI during his recent visit to the UK.

Click here to read part 5 of this interview.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: