Leading Our Way to Zero Harm
- Bob Veazie (People Powered Leadership) | Tom Knode (Halliburton)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 16 - 18
- 2010. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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A key theme of SPE’s 11th International Conference on Health, Safety, and the Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production was how to achieve an incident-free workplace. Leadership is one of the critical elements of reaching this goal. This column explores components of effective leadership as it pertains to safety and its effect on employees.
Safety is about managing risk. Although the people who manage risk within an organization generally have “manager” titles, these are usually not the people who are injured. Consequently, to attain excellent safety levels, it is essential that all employees who are at risk of injuries be included in organizational risk-management activities.
Employees currently address risks in many ways, including performing audits of workplace conditions and writing work orders to ensure follow-up on key workplace conditions that require continuous improvement. Employee responsibilities also include collecting and using key information about near misses before an injury actually occurs. Perhaps most importantly, employees in many organizations are also asked to create a more interdependent workplace in which they watch out for one another and always act in service of one another in “moments of choice” to ensure that, when coworkers perform a behavior that puts themselves or others at risk, an intervention takes place before an injury occurs.
This growing requirement of interdependent behavior within organizations requires that employees personally develop the courage to care. It also requires them to develop the humility to care enough to receive feedback, which includes dropping defensiveness and listening to peer coaches in the interest of always working more safely. This is hard work that requires personal transformation. The achievement of this degree of personal transformation requires an increased level of leadership effectiveness of those in the management positions.
So how do managers exercise increased leadership in moving toward an employee-empowerment model essential for ownership of everyone’s safety at the appropriate levels across the entity?
Empowering Employees for Safety Excellence
World-class safety, in which all employees assume the responsibility of their own safety and the safety of those around them, arises only out of discretionary behavior. Discretionary behavior is simply a choice made by each employee every day; employees cannot be mandated to comply. It is what they do all day, every day, when no one is watching.
Because discretionary behavior is the response of employees to their experience in the workplace, managers have a great deal of influence on its occurrence. Management affects employees’ workplace experience; the more positive the experience the more discretionary behavior that the employees provide. The more negative the experience, however, the more employees will just mechanically perform their work to obtain credit for success or to avoid the consequences of failure.
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