Jan 27, 2020
What are the safety hazards associated with the offshore energy industry?
Dangerous equipment, extreme and uncertain weather conditions and the psychological toll of an extended stay away from family are just some of the most well-known dangers of working inside the construction industry.
The catastrophic 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was a terrible reminder of the risks every worker takes. What is being done to turn around the safety culture of offshore drilling workers?
Two academic researchers have partnered with two energy companies to bring scientific, evidence-based mindfulness exercises to innovate the safety training of the entire offshore operation. The partnership hopes to transfer the lessons learned about mindfulness as safety leadership to the energy industry at large.
That's great news for Kevin Wetherington, a safety officer at Baker Hughes, a partner in the study. Wetherton appreciates the broad impact of mindfulness research. He is already seeing success in equipping workers with skills that support a culture of safety and awareness.
Each day for 30 days, the offshore workers engage in two short activities. A data scientist will work to collect feedback and company records to allow for careful analysis of the safety data collected.
The National Academies of Science has funded the study with a grant of $802,000. The study will teach people to focus on the moment and stay in the present as much as possible. Mindfulness is nothing short of maximizing awareness.
The partners in the study fully expect there to be a link between mindfulness and reducing the risk of safety accidents in the offshore drilling industry. The methods were created originally for the safety of soldiers in the military and have been verified for relevancy to the requirements of an offshore rig.
The ultimate success of this safety study will be an incident and incident-free construction project.
The risks of working in the offshore energy industry are well-documented - long hours, dangerous equipment, extreme weather and weeks away from family and friends. The results can be catastrophic, illustrated by the 2010 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 people and spilled millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
A partnership between academic researchers and two energy companies, Diamond Offshore Drilling and Baker Hughes, will build new evidence-based tools to enhance safety by examining whether simple exercises designed to increase mindfulness can reduce the risks. The work, led by Christiane Spitzmueller, professor of industrial psychology at the University of Houston, Kasia Curry at Baker Hughes and Brian Carrico at Diamond Offshore Drilling, will translate research on mindfulness to the energy industry.
Participating offshore workers will undergo training as part of a 30-day exercise, consisting of two brief exercises daily. Follow-up employee surveys and company records will be integrated into a database to allow analysis.
Kevin Wetherington, chief health, safety, environment, security and quality officer at Baker Hughes, said the research could have a broad impact.