BusinessDay

Downstream firms should shift from compliance to sustainable safety culture – Gogomary

The downstream sector of the oil and gas industry has suffered in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With industry players operating at lowered capacities, more companies are witnessing a compromised Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) culture. OYET GOGOMARY, group head, external relations, and communications of OVH Energy Marketing, with over 21 years of professional experience implementing EHS Management Systems in the petroleum industry shares with BusinessDay’s Dipo Oladehinde, strategies to change this narration, excerpts:

In your opinion, how has the workplace changed in the past couple of years, and how has this affected the EHS culture of downstream operations?

With the spread of COVID-19, most companies in the downstream sector either reduced their workforce or made staff work from home to prevent the spread of the disease, this led to compromised EHS critical activities which may likely lead to avoidable incidents.
Also, the increasing reliance on computer technology, rotational work arrangements, the increased pace of work, as well as the increasing diversity of the workforce, create several challenges for both employees and EHS personnel alike. The Downstream sector is facing a historically difficult time in the wake of the coronavirus. Therefore, it is pertinent for all organizations within the sector, to maintain a good EHS management system that is premised on a company-wide strong EHS Culture.

How has OVH Energy Marketing built and maintained a positive safety culture?

Employee mindsets shape a company’s culture. Having the right mindset toward safety is fundamental to preventing accidents in the workplace. There is a direct correlation between safety commitment and EHS performance. When addressing safety, it is easy to focus on the tangible aspects, such as an agreement, a plan, or an analysis. Yet these documents and procedures are worthless if employees do not have a habitual way of thinking, seeing, and behaving that puts safety at the forefront.
At OVH Energy Marketing, top management drives a positive safety culture by communicating regularly with employees about workplace safety and health matters. According to Huub Stockman, the CEO of OVH Energy Marketing Limited, “Our collective duty is to ensure that we all come to work safely and return safely back to our beloved family. Our common obligation is to protect ourselves, work safely and ensure that our actions do not affect our colleagues negatively.”

How should companies in the downstream sector empower employees with this mindset further reinforcing the company’s safety culture?

It is the top leadership responsibility to engage employees in hazard identification and assessment, prioritizing hazards, training, and program evaluation. Management should establish a way for employees to report job-related potential incidents, fatalities, injuries, illnesses, incidents, and hazards promptly and make recommendations about appropriate ways to control those hazards; and Provide prompt responses to such reports and recommendations.

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To foster a strong safety culture, the day-to-day operating philosophy of the organisation should draw a clear line between what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. It should also encourage openness, trust, and accountability.

What is the relationship between management systems and employee mindset in promoting a positive EHS Culture?

Although management systems and programs provide an effective safety framework; ultimately it is the employee’s perception of the value of safety to himself and the importance of safety to the organization that governs safety performance. For true performance, companies need both the underlying systems and an organizational culture that supports them.

How important is an organisation’s EHS culture and how is it evaluated?

To manage EHS performance, one must be able to understand and manage the organisation’s EHS culture. Each organisation has a unique EHS culture. EHS performance is most often driven by employee actions and behaviours, which are largely a product of the EHS culture within an organisation.
An organisation’s EHS culture is a product of an organisation’s values, perceptions, attitudes, patterns of behaviour, and competencies that define the style, proficiency of, and commitment to the organisation’s EHS management. Every employee must think and act on these values, even when no one is supervising. It is only then, that it becomes a culture and a way of life.
Many factors shape an organisation’s EHS culture and similarly, many considerations in evaluating an organization’s EHS culture. EHS culture can be assessed in several ways; but should certainly take into account EHS regulatory compliance, conformance to ISO 45001 and 14001 management system elements, site observation, and candid employee feedback from all levels within the organization.
Together, these elements give an experienced culture assessor a strong understanding of the EHS culture at an organization. If any opportunities for improvement are identified as a result of the culture assessment, action plans should be created and steps taken to improve the EHS culture, which should, in turn, improve EHS performance.

Do you believe organisations in the downstream industry should have safety as a core value? If yes, how will this increase safety in Nigeria’s downstream sector?

Yes, I believe this should be the way to go. When organisations establish safety as a core value and actively involve employees in the safety improvement process, the focus shifts from safety compliance to a sustainable safety culture which thrives when safety goals are connected to business strategic values. When employees connect to internal motivation, their perception and behaviour mindset shift. They take personal responsibility, and accountability and intentionally develop safe behaviour to achieve safety excellence.

How should downstream companies maintain a strong safety culture?

To do this, safety leadership is key. As is with other things, a company’s safety culture is driven by the executive leadership team who creates, cultivates, and sustains its journey to excellence. They set the vision and the strategic direction, provide resources and constantly emphasize and reinforce the importance of safety to people and the business. To maintain a strong safety culture, the organisation’s leadership must guide and influence their followers with a clearly articulated vision, establishing achievable goals and providing them with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve those goals. The Leadership must be actively involved and walk the talk.
The key to moving organizations from the status quo to their target destination of excellence is dependent on some effective strategic safety activities which help employees comply & remain engaged in safety at work. Also, I must reiterate that safety excellence is a continuous journey that never ends even when great results are being repeated. It is a journey that requires constant improvement actions.

Nigeria has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 while underlining the importance of gas as a transition fuel. Are we really ready for this transition or is this just another lip service?

Yes, in my opinion, we are indeed ready for the transition. The government over the past couple of years has taken actionable steps to make this a reality. The Federal Government to reiterate the importance of gas as a transition fuel has declared January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2030, as “The Decade of Gas Development for Nigeria”.
Also, at the recently concluded Nigeria International Energy Summit (N.I.E.S.), the Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, reiterated the government’s objective to drive a new narrative making energy a cornerstone of the country’s Industry Policy’. One of the highlights of the Minister’s address was the government’s strategy to diversify Nigeria’s economy and drive industrialization through a focus on domestic utilisation of natural gas.
In Africa, the priority focus for the energy system is affordability, reliability, and clean energy. However, at this point, I should state that this transition must proceed at different paces. Africa’s energy system and the global energy system will not undergo transition at the same pace. This is due to local nuances such as the availability of natural resources, national policies that address climate change and air quality, energy security, affordability, the pace of economic growth, technological innovation, and choices made by end-users and consumers. To enable a seamless transition in Nigeria, the government must balance energy security with environmental sustainability positioning gas as a transition fuel.

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