June 29, 2016
Catalysing People to be Safety Leaders: A Personal Journey from Feeling Like a Prisoner to Being a Champion of IIF. What Does it Take to Stay True to Your Courageous and Uncompromising Commitment to Safety?
Lifting operations and suspended loads are always in the top 10 of identified safety risks. Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL) wanted to enhance their organizational safety culture. The COO, Peter de Bree shares his personal safety leadership journey, his reflections and the lessons he learned in implementing Incident and Injury-Free™ (IIF™).
Watch Peter de Bree’s Presentation at the Annual Task Force Zero Safety Conference 2016
(Video original published via Olie Gas Denmark.)
“I had never experienced an incident myself and I felt really safe on board our lifting vessels. Serious incidents in heavy lifting always happened in a different company, it happened on the other side of the world or it happened very early in my career when I was fairly junior.”
“My journey with Incident and Injury-Free started almost 10 years ago when SHL already had a good safety program. Then a contract was signed with Chevron and it contained the requirement that all employees on the project— in the office, in engineering and everybody on board the vessels had to be trained according to IIF. It also stated that management had to go to a two-day commitment workshop. “
“When I saw this, I straight went to my commercial colleagues and said, “How the hell could you have signed this guys? You know we have a good safety record; you know that we do things safely; we do the job safety analyses, the toolbox talks; we look at the hazards and the hazardous operations. Everything is in place.”
“What I was really afraid of was that an oil company was going to impose their own system on SHL. I did not want to confuse the crews with different systems for different projects. I was against what the company had agreed to when it signed the contract. However, it was not possible to make any changes. It was mandatory and as I was responsible for projects, I had to go to Houston with a colleague to attend the workshop. I felt like a prisoner. I didn’t want to go.”
Starting the Journey:
“Half way through the first day, I learned that IIF was not a new safety system being imposed. It was about leadership. It was about building relationships. It was about making safety personal, about our own journeys that we shared. At the end of the first day, I remember us admitting to each other that this wasn’t so bad after all. The second day continued and actually I was converted from a prisoner to a tourist and by the end of the workshop I had become an IIF champion.”
“In the IIF workshops, the video of Charlie Morecraft, “Remember Charlie” was shown. Charlie worked in the Exxon refinery, made a mistake which resulted in an explosion. He was burned. His message is that the worst that happened to him was not the burning, not the pain; it was not all the time in hospital. The worst thing was that he caused so much pain to his wife and his daughters – he really impacted their lives. Then I remembered, that although I hadn’t experienced any incidents at work, there was a serious incident in my own family.”
Bringing IIF to Life:
“I hadn’t really thought about the accident much since it happened when I was eight years old and my brothers were six and four years old. We were on a short weekend trip with my parents and grandparents. We went cycling which is not considered a dangerous activity. My youngest brother fell and he got the steering bar in his stomach. My brother had suffered a punctured pancreas caused by the steering bar and there was no medication or treatment. Within a few days, he was in intensive care. Initially my brother and I were not allowed to visit. Later, when the situation worsened, the doctors allowed us to visit and I remember it was a shock to see him so weak in his hospital bed.”
“While my brother was in hospital, for nearly seven months, our lives were very different. My parents were almost always with him. My grandparents took care of us and it was not easy taking care of two young boys. Also my father’s small business became less successful as he was visiting the hospital so much. When my brother finally returned home we had to restart our lives together again and it did impact all of us in what we are doing today. However, my brother survived and he is now a very successful business man.”
“This story is a powerful example that I could relate to on my IIF journey and it’s why I don’t want anything to happen to any of my colleagues and or their families.”
“After the workshop we agreed to implement an IIF program. We believed it was exactly what the company needed. I was then faced with the challenge of resistance, the challenge to recall people from their leave and other activities to go to commitment workshops and orientation workshops. We decided that the whole organization had to do this, so everyone on board the vessels, everyone in the offices and all our subcontractors. It was a huge effort.”
“The most difficult part for me came when I had to make decisions. I realized IIF is about the tough decisions. That was when I noticed I was being tested by the people in the organization. How serious I am about IIF? I have to show commitment and show that I am very, very serious about this. I have to be a role model because if I let something slip; say I went on board a vessel and didn’t wear a safety helmet; the next day, half the people won’t wear their safety helmets anymore.”
“One early example was when we had just started implementing IIF.”
“The company vessel was alongside our client’s structure but the jackets and topsides were not ready. We had been waiting for several weeks and everyone was getting nervous. We like to start the project and the client wants us to do something as they are paying for our services. After three weeks suddenly a barge arrived, but we had never seen that type of structure before. It was not a very big structure, so it could easily be lifted from a capacity point of view but we had not seen the certification. Normally we do the proper checks.”
“I took part in a call with the vessel’s management team and their view was, “We think we can do this because it’s not heavy. We’ve had a look at it ourselves.” I said “No—absolutely no. We don’t know what we’re going to lift. We haven’t seen the certificates for the lift points. We don’t have a clue what type of rigging this is and we really need to be sure it’s safe. No, we’re not going do this.” I knew when I made that decision that the people on the vessel already had pressure from the client on board. I knew I would have financial, legal and contractual pressure and I would have an angry client calling me that night, which happened. This is the ultimate example of stop the work. We will not do this. Since then a few of those events have occurred, but they hardly ever happen anymore.”
I gotta tell you, in my 40 plus year career in this construction industry, the thing I am most proud of is what we did over the last year and a half in safety.
IIF in SHL Today:
“Today the people on board, the project teams and the project managers know how I feel about this type of situation. They don’t have to ask me anymore. They can stop the work. I actually expect them to stop the work, or slow down the work, if they’re not sure that something is good enough. I say that they should not hurry. They should take their time and do things right the first time and that’s what I value. I don’t give any compliments for doing things quickly, only when they do it right first time. Now many people in SHL, leaders in the company, are stopping the work or are slowing the work down.”
“What I’ve seen happening over time is that the leadership has shifted away from me. The leadership team has become the project team and the people on the vessels. They know they have my full support and I count on them making those decisions themselves. That’s also what I think I pay them to do, but it’s also what I see these days. We are now three years into the program and the initiatives don’t come from me anymore. They come from our people and from the project teams. Things are changing.”
“‘IIF on Saturdays’ is one example of that shift in leadership. On Saturday there are few emails and calls from the office. People just go to a recreation room, or the bridge, and they mix the various departments and nationalities. They have a cup of coffee and they start talking to each other. Because the groups include a mix of employees that people might not normally work with, they ask, “How are you? How’s your family? Do you have children?” These are not things that everyone knows about their colleagues. They also discuss ideas about how to improve and they just have conversations. These conversations improve the relationships because if you have strong relationships, you take more care of other people and you look out for each other better. You are more likely to prevent something happening to somebody you know well or to their family.”
“Another thing that has changed is that IIF has become part of our language. These days if I am in the office and walk around, I can see and hear two engineers sitting next to each other with a drawing in front of them and one saying to the other, “Hey, this is not IIF.” And what they mean is that what they are looking at can be perfectly in accordance with contracts, with rules, regulations, DMV class requirements, you name it, but there’s still something else that is not quite right. They say, “No, we’d better have another look.” And that’s what they will do.”
“Another example is our annual mountain bike trip. It’s organized by an IT guy and one of the engineers in the office. In the invitation IIF is there. They say, “We’re going biking. You all have to wear your helmets and we’re going to make sure it’s IIF.” Those two people are very remote from the work offshore. They’re office staff. It has become an integrated part of our business.”
“It took a lot of energy to implement IIF, but it was not actually too difficult because it makes sense to most people. Our prisoners have become tourists and champions like me.”
“Today we have our own employees as IIF trainers. At the moment, they still train every new employee; they still train every new subcontractor that comes on board on one of their vessels; they also train their clients if they come on board. The journey continues.”
“So, what did it bring in the end?”
“Did it slow down production? It’s difficult for me to show a change in world production levels or up-time because we don’t run the platforms. We do projects and every project is unique. There are many other factors associated with production because we also have innovation and new ideas. But although we stopped the work and although we took another look at certain things, it did have a positive impact on production.”
“Did it impact efficiency? It’s also difficult for me to prove that we have become more efficient. However, over the last two years the calculations haven’t changed much, but saying that, the additional time and costs in our actual efficiency and progress have only been positive.”
“Did we lose any clients? No. In the earlier example, where we had an angry client, we actually signed another contract with the same customer, and an even bigger contract a year later. When we met them to sign this contract, they said, “You were right. We were just not used to it. We are used to telling you what to do. We’re not used a contractor that speaks up so loudly and refuses to do something because of safety.” Today we have a very, very good customer and we are still working with them on projects.”
“Did it impact our employees? We do regular employee surveys and the scores for safety are extremely high. We compare our scores and employee surveys with other companies across the Netherlands. It’s proof that our journey is working.”
“Did it improve our safety statistics? Yes, over time, it absolutely has improved our safety statistics, but I’m not going to list them as IIF has nothing to do with statistics. IIF only has to do with leadership. It has to do with setting the right example, role modeling, relationships and really, really believing that every incident can be avoided. It’s all about really believing that we do this, or I do this, in the interest of my colleagues and their families.”
“When I’m on board, with my colleagues and subcontractors, I feel really proud. I know why I am spending so much time and energy on IIF, because it’s about these people and their families and that’s the drive that keeps us going.”
“As a result of implementing IIF SHL has seen a 5% to 6% increase in their performance.”
They were Lost Time Incident (LTI) free for 31 months. Employee engagement with safety has been measured extremely high compared to other organizations both in the industry and outside the industry and their safety statistics have improved. Incident and Injury-Free is now an integrated part of their organization.
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