Proactive Approach to Well Construction Safety in Alaska's Kuparuk River Field
- D.K. Petrash (Arco Alaska Inc.) | A.O. Graff (Parker Drilling Co.) | J.A. Trantham (Arco Alaska Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Drilling & Completion
- Publication Date
- September 1999
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 157 - 161
- 1999. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 6.1 HSSE & Social Responsibility Management, 4.3.4 Scale, 6.1.2 HSSE Reporting
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In 1995, the Kuparuk Drilling Group (KDG) recognized that safety performance had continually improved since well construction commenced in the Kuparuk River Field in 1981. However, it was also recognized that performance improvement appeared to be losing momentum. Upon analysis of the trend, it was noted that most efforts to reduce workplace risk were focused on: engineering controls; administrative controls and operating practices; and personal protective equipment.
In order to return to improving safety performance, attain world class status, and help employees return safely from the workplace to their families, the KDG solicited input from the drilling contractor to develop and implement a proactive behavior-based safety program. Part of the development included a goal-driven incentive, the Safety Performance Goals Program, which deemphasizes safety statistics and fully complements the overall safety objectives.
The pursuit of excellence in safety management on Alaska's North Slope has been ongoing since the early days of field development. Safety performance through 1998 can be seen in Fig. 1, with similar trends reflected in the statistics for individual operating companies and rig contractors on the North Slope. A 1994/95 review of safety performance highlighted that a plateau had been reached and improvements in safety performance were losing momentum.
In performing an analysis on the Drilling Health, Safety, Environmental and Training (HSET) program, it became apparent that most efforts to reduce workplace risk were focused on engineering controls, administrative controls, operating practices, and personal protective equipment. Investigations did not focus on root causes of incidents nor were incidents categorized for trends. Instead, an incident would be treated as a single event and only reactive measures were taken as prevention. As a result, events appeared erratic in nature and only specific fixes were performed, rather than embracing a larger-scale view of the safety systems in place.
In addition, the traditional incentive programs used with the primary Kuparuk rig contractors were based upon awarding significant bonuses based on statistical lost time accident (LTA) results. An accident on one crew could cancel bonuses for all crews. Individual employees felt that they had little control over or input into their HSET program or incentives. As a result, the incentive program became a punitive measure that did not emphasize specific safety issues, and was perceived by workers as being achieved by luck as much as by working safely.
Developing the Vision
In early 1995, the Kuparuk Drilling Group (KDG) team embraced the philosophy "all incidents are preventable." Previously, there was a widespread (if often unvoiced) feeling that some number of accidents would be inevitable in an operation as complex as a drilling rig. Blame would often be placed on the employee as being the cause, as "not working safely." It became apparent to Kuparuk management that a step function in safety performance could not be achieved without believing all incidents are preventable, and raising the level of safety expectations. However, this concept would not be accepted at the rig site until the focus moved from the individual to a process.
The emphasis on behavior-based safety processes grew from the review of many different sources. The Kuparuk production organization was adopting proactive assessment and investigation methods. A Kuparuk team assembled to benchmark companies with strong safety performances found that behavior-based approaches to operations achieved the greatest reductions in incidents. Current literature advocated a proactive behavior-based approach1,2 and supported the theory with positive results.
The structure of the Kuparuk organization also changed from functionally oriented departments to multifunctional groups with an emphasis on teamwork. Following in this trend, the KDG began encouraging the contractor's rig-site management to cross the boundaries between North Slope Drilling and Production groups. The rig superintendents and rig managers (toolpushers) began attending production-sponsored training and meetings, bringing them into alignment with operator philosophies and allowing the contractor personnel to learn from the other organizations.
From this background, the KDG team developed a vision to improve performance by changing the rig HSET program and attain world class safety status. The most important result, however, would be the ability to provide a safe and effective workplace where employees could feel ownership in their environment and return home to their families uninjured.
Moving the Team Forward.
The rig contractor had already proceeded with adopting a self-monitoring onsite assessment program. The team continued their plan of involving onsite contractor management in quarterly multiorganizational safety assessments and incident investigations, which, respectively, emphasized nonthreatening opportunities for employee input and behavior-based, root-cause analysis. These processes have been successful in encouraging individual employee freedom and comfort in bringing out safety and management issues without fear of reprisal, while still allowing emphasis on teamwork.
More recently, the KDG and rig contractor management formed a drilling safety leadership team with the goal of jointly developing safety goals, and to provide the resources and be a catalyst for safety improvement. A current project involves developing a slope-wide loader operator training and testing program. These actions mirrored processes within the Kuparuk production organization, providing a consistent framework for all Kuparuk North Slope operations.
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