More than 400 attendees!

On a normal day in Esbjerg 1 in 10 people make their way through morning traffic to their jobs in the oil and gas industry. On 14 April 400 of them, including producers, suppliers, more than 90 students and people from other industries chose to attend the 10th annual TFZ Offshore Safety Conference at the Esbjerg Performing Arts Centre.

As the clock crept towards 9.00am, the theatre bell sounded, and the crowd made their way down the stairs to the main stage. As the audience settled in and opened their conference magazines, the programme kicked off with an animated video underscoring the overall objective: Safety Leadership – Greater results because of you.

Speakers

For the first time in the history of Task Force Zero, a member of government took the stage as the first of an exciting lineup of speakers. Jørn Neergaard Larsen, Minister for Employment had some exciting news to share: Last year showed a massive improvement as the frequency of incidents in 2015 has dropped dramatically.

Following the Minister, the country managers of Maersk Oil, DONG Oil & Gas, Hess and Wintershall joined moderator Alan Palmer for an opening discussion of their personal perception of safety.

After a brief refreshment break, the audience was graced with inspiring insights from former submarine commander David Marquet on the theme: “Give control, create leaders”. His main argument was as follows: by trusting your people to think for themselves, and not telling them what to do, you end up with a stronger crew. A frightening prospect, surely, to give up control like that, but the country managers seemed to respond positively.

From the oil and gas industry, Peter de Bree, Seaway Heavy Lifting gave his personal view on a company heavily invested in safety leadership. Following Peter de Bree, Gordon Ballard, newly appointed Executive director of IOGP, called for further collaboration in the industry. He also gave an introduction to the strategy employed by IOGP in changing public views on the oil and gas industry.

An academic turn

From a very “inside” perspective on the industry, the conference took an academic turn. Todd Conklin of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA, took the stage. A witty presentation left everyone with a very clear message: Don’t just try to prevent accidents by educating your employees. Try to build up the capacity to safely handle accidents when they inevitably occur. Extending the driver’s license course to a full year might save some lives, but some accidents will happen anyways due to circumstances beyond your control, and then you’re going to want an airbag.

Todd was followed by Dr. Jop Groeneweg from the University of Leiden, who offered a more psychological view. In his opinion, the key to getting people involved in improving process safety is to avoid using the word safety. Instead, focus on all aspects of the quality of the work. According to him, the word “safety” triggers negative emotions in many organizations. He suggested that an employer should focus on what can be done better, rather than what is “unsafe”, when talking to his or her employees.