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Safety Culture Includes the Driver's Seat

Monday, 18 Feb 2013

If you’re around Brooks, Red Deer, Grande Prairie or Lloydminster on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you may hear on the local radio station a message from CAODC. 

These CAODC radio ads target a specific audience: rural Albertans who don’t have a direct connection to the oil patch.  The idea behind the campaign is to help more people understand the dynamics behind Alberta’s rig industry.

But December’s message spoke both to the general public and to industry employees.

The ad began with a list of safety gear used on the rigs.  Then the ad highlighted a piece of gear that doesn’t readily come to mind when we think about rig employees and safety: a seat belt.

Thinking about Risk
Rig workers log thousands of driving hours.  They do most of this travel when driving conditions are less than optimal: when temperatures plunge, when roads get icy and when wind and snow can reduce visibility.  They drive into remote areas and share narrow gravel roads with larger, heavier vehicles.

At the rig site, employees are geared up to mitigate the risks posed by heavy equipment.  But at the end of a shift, the steel-toed boots are replaced with more comfortable footwear and the hard hat and coveralls are set aside.  It’s easy to be lulled into the sense that the high risk activities of the day are over.

But motor vehicles have the dire distinction of being one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace.  The RCMP tell us that most fatal crashes happen on gravel roads in rural areas, and this industry logs a great many hours on these roads. 

Encouraging safe drive habits is a topic that’s regularly found on the CAODC Health, Safety and Environment (HS&E) Committee’s agenda.

At a recent meeting, the committee spent some time discussing journey management.  This is the practice of a rig manager checking in with employees, or employees confirming with their rig manager once they’ve arrived home after a hitch. 

With today’s technology, journey management seems common sense.  Thanks to cell phones and texting options, touching base with a supervisor has never been so effortless.

Having HS&E committee members share journey management policies is a first step.  Several contractors already have some kind of policy in place regarding journey management and the committee’s discussion may produce guidelines to encourage more companies to make use of this safety practice.

Tim Dibben is the chairman of the CAODC HS&E Committee and HSE and HR Manager for Akita Drilling Ltd.  He characterized journey management policies this way:

“If you’re a rig manager, you always know where your pumps are.  Why not the same for your crew?”

Extending Safety Culture to Include the Driver Seat
From simple reminders to ‘wear a seat belt’ to company driving policies, rig contractors are aware that employee safety isn’t limited to the rig site. 

The safety-conscious attitude of the rig site also has a place in the driver’s seat.  It’s a message everyone can take to heart.