Developing the Stones project safety culture

Developing a safety culture begins with a strong project vision that is kept alive every day by project leadership. The Stones project vision was “Working Together to Safely Deliver our Phase 1 Promises.” This was visible to the project team, and leadership also used three components (teamwork, safety, delivery) to recognize staff working on the project. From the start, it was leadership’s express intention to have everyone working on the project go home safely to their families and ultimately deliver the following safety vision: We demand Goal Zero of ourselves “one day at a time.”

Curtis Lohr

Project Management Advisor

Former Project Director-Stones (Shell)

The offshore oil and gas industry remains a challenging yet exciting place to work. During a 34-year career with Shell, this author’s experiences included leading roles on projects that started the deepwater industry (Auger TLP); opened up deepwater Nigeria (Bonga FPSO); delivered the world’s deepest drilling and production system (Perdido spar); and culminated with the world’s deepest floating production system (Stones FPSO). During the numerous up and downs associated with the cyclic nature of oil prices, what stood out was the importance of safeguarding the people delivering these ground-breaking projects.

Developing a safety culture begins with a strong project vision that is kept alive every day by project leadership. The Stones project vision was “Working Together to Safely Deliver our Phase 1 Promises.” This was visible to the project team, and leadership also used three components (teamwork, safety, delivery) to recognize staff working on the project.

From the start, it was leadership’s express intention to have everyone working on the project go home safely to their families and ultimately deliver the following safety vision: We demand Goal Zero of ourselves “one day at a time” through consistent focus, actions and behaviors that deliver no harm to people and protect the environment. The Stones project team will be a model of HSE excellence by “doing the right thing at all times.”

Goal Zero was launched by Shell in 2007 to build a safety culture, culminating with the desired safety performance during construction of the Stones FPSO. The project set to achieve Goal Zero safety performance by believing it was possible and by centering team behavior on a “One-Team” mindset. The following five principals were used to drive the desired safety culture and achieve the goal in Singapore of “Building Something Special with No Harm”:

• Safety is a key project driver

• Excellent working relationships

• Genuine care for people

• Project and senior management commitment

• Consistent approach to safety.


Relationships were established within the Stones leadership and broader project team, with the key contractors, and between the site teams in Singapore. A “best for project” mindset was important to create alignment, consistency and trust. This was key in creating a “One Team” attitude. Some of the communication tools used included: all-team meetings, team surveys, monthly poster updates, teambuilding workshops, lunch with leadership, lunch-and-learn events, and cross-functional participation in team meetings. Learning more about each other’s behaviors and motivators during the regular teambuilding events was key to building the “One Team.”

To help realize the project safety vision, the Stones Safety Journey Plan was created to operationalize the safety culture principals and at the same time create a tangible roadmap. This safety program showcased how high the importance of safety was held within the project and helped focus activities on a “One Team” mindset.

Safety Leadership Engagements (SLEs) were held with the key contractors, with engagements in Singapore typically lasting two days. Time was spent in the meeting room to jointly discuss safety performance since the last safety leadership engagement, top risks in the next period, good practices worth replicating across all sites and key actions to be taken. However, the majority of time in Singapore was focused on leaders spending time in the field, where they could observe work activities and engage with workers directly. Field engagements with craft workers helped leaders assess the effectiveness of safety implementation, reinforce the importance of safety, and provided an opportunity for leaders to visibly demonstrate care for the workforce.

From the start of construction, it was apparent that supervisors in the yards would play a critical role in the project’s safety performance. Therefore, the SLEs were designed so that participants and yard supervisors could have lunch together. This provided a great forum to build trust directly with the yard supervisors, by getting to know them personally, and led to insightful discussions on challenges they faced and feedback on effectiveness of initiatives the project put in place.

The Stones project started strong and delivered the target safety performance during project execution leading up to first oil. While the overall HSE performance (22 million man-hours) was of great pride to the Stones team, it is recognized that the Goal Zero performance in the Singapore construction yards contributed enormously. This included safety performance in the two Keppel yards during conversion of the FPSO that accounted for over 13 million exposure hours without a safety incident during 889 days of Goal Zero performance. The Stones project achieved its goal in Singapore of “Building Something Special with No Harm.”

Key success factors were a commitment by all the companies’ management, alignment on common goals, and a concerted effort by the site teams of all five companies to work together as one team. The “One Team” developed and implemented a safety improvement plan (Safety Journey Plan) that incorporated safety leadership training, communications for a diverse multi-lingual work force, training for the workers and their immediate supervisors, incentive programs targeted at the workers’ behaviors, and a sharing of good practices across all four yards.

The above is offered as guidance for the entire offshore oil and gas industry on ways to develop a strong safety culture, and challenge future project teams. The challenge is to make the commitment to spend the time and money required to achieve the same or even better safety performance than we saw on Stones. These goals can be accomplished by working together to safely deliver current and future offshore projects.

This page reflects viewpoints on the political, economic, cultural, technological, and environmental issues that shape the future of the petroleum industry.Offshore Magazine invites you to share your thoughts. Email your Beyond the Horizon manuscript to David Paganie at davidp@pennwell.com.

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