Sign up to our newsletter
Keep up to date with all HSE news and thought leadership interviews

Robert Sheninger on Hazard Identification at the Employee Level in Safety

Hazard identification at an employee level and effective learning method | Robert Sheninger (Expert Interview #7)


Here we interview Ron Gantt, Director of Innovation and Operations at the Reflect Consulting Group. With Ron, we explore the role in human factors on influencing health and safety, in addition to safety management systems and safety leadership.

Read full transcript

– [Paul] Right. Next up, we’re really excited to welcome Mr. Robert Sheninger, the vice president of health safety environment and sustainability at Telus energy. We’re over the moon to introduce Rob to the HSE Network today and we’re going to be talking to him about his organisation Talos Energy, who are technically driven, independent and exploration production company focused on safely and efficiently maximising cash flows and long-term value through its operations currently in the United States, Gulf of Mexico and offshore Mexico.

Some of the biggest topics at the moment and coming around with Rob touch on hazard identification and employee level. Also looking at effective learning methods for non-conventional work schedules. I know these subjects are really important to Rob and to Talos Energy. So we’re going to get started right away. Over to you, Rob.

Well, welcome to the HSC Network, Rob, and you’re heading up as the vice president for health, safety, environmental and sustainability for Talos Energy. Mr. Robert Sheninger leads the Talos Energy Group. He’s working within technically-driven independent exploration production company, focused mainly on safely and efficiently maximising cash flows and long-term value through its operation.

Currently in the United States, Gulf of Mexico and offshore Mexico as well. So we’re privileged to have you at the HSE Network today and the HSE North America Congress. I wanted to ask you a few questions and interview you on the topic around hazard identification at the employee level and also effective learning methods for non-conventional work schedules.

One question that I had, Rob, if I may, is looking at sort of HSE practitioners and obviously they know that hazard identification is the foundation perhaps of safe workplace. And its most basic level, hazard identification is simply looking at a job task or perhaps a situation and asking, “Is there a situation or behaviour perhaps that could place myself in harm’s way?”

That all seems pretty straightforward. But is it though, really, because we’re still seeing a lot of incidents, major incidents, across the field. – [Robert] Well, it’s an interesting conundrum where in the oil and gas industry we have such advanced tools to help identify risk, whether it’s a formalised job safety analysis, behaviour-based observations, incident reporting or even management of change.

And even with these tools to identify risk, the quality is often lacking and you have employees, whether they’re full time or contractors putting himself in harm’s way because they are not effectively utilising their ability to identify risk. And our industry is very quick to roll out a new idea or a new process, but what we fail to do effectively is provide employees with the opportunity to fully understand how is this tool supposed to identify risk?

How am I as an individual effectively able to identify the sources of hazardous energy that could harm me and put in the hierarchy of risk controls to effectively either prevent or mitigate exposure to those risks?

– I guess how best, then, from your perspective, do we implement effective hazard identification and employee level?

– We’d like to think we’ve revolutionised the process where we did not want to reinvent the wheel. And as we look to improve hazard identification, it was very important to us that we did not create additional paperwork. We wanted to actually build on the foundation of the current risk identification tools we have in place.

So we developed a recurrent risk assessment, it’s like a mental JSA where we invest at the time to train all of our employees and contractors on the 10 sources of hazardous energy. What is the most effective means of control, whether it’s elimination the hazard, substitution a less hazardous energy source, engineering it out, administrative controls, PPE.

And after the training, we looked at how can we further reinforce these learnings? So we created pocket cards, and accordion-style guides that reinforce key concepts. We have posters that we’ve placed on every offshore platform that talk about how to fill out a good JSA, how to utilise the recurrent risk assessment.

And the next evolution is building an e-learning module that we can then disseminate quite easily to kind of close the continual process loop.

– Well, I mean, that sounds all well and good and sounds great and it’s different, but it sounds like Talos are going in the right direction. But on another topic, I feel something that doesn’t get brought up enough in discussions, is you know, obviously the abundant, in oil and gas specifically as an unconventional

[inaudible] and the work schedules of workers specifically adopting best safety practises on a standard nine to five is challenging but surely is much easier to manage a typical offshore schedule where folks work 14 days on and then 14 days off. So, do you have a specific learning method, perhaps, that is being adopted by yourself and Talos that is to help for that sort of non-conventional work schedule?

– What’s non-conventional to our industry is actually well-liked by those who work the schedule. I mean, you get to work half the year, you get half the year off. Challenges are getting the employees who are on a hitch which is what we call the schedule for 14 days. Not only do they have to do their job, but they need to get the training that’s required, they need to participate in safety meetings and different activities.

And one of the real challenges we find is fatigue. I mean, when you’re out there working a 14 day on, 14 day off with a standard minimum 12-hour workday, sometimes 14, 16 or plus, it’s incumbent upon us as a operator to ensure proper work-rest cycles, but it takes a unique type of individual who can be away from their families.

And distraction is another huge challenge when you’re away from your family for 14 days and you have to worry about, you know, what issues are going on at home, financial, you know, kids sporting events. So keeping people focused on the task at hand, it kind of lends back to the recurrent risk assessment where not only are we trying to improve hazard identification tools at the employee level, we’re also at the same time trying to keep our employees focused on the task at hand which in our world is safely producing oil and gas in an environmentally safe manner.

– Sounds easy when you put it on that, but I’m sure it’s not.

– It has its challenges. We excel in many areas but like most oil and gas companies, we do have room for improvement. Changing our focus from the minor incidents to being more proactive and are we doing enough to prevent the major catastrophic events like we saw with Deepwater Horizon a couple of years back?

But it’s a collective effort between Talos management, our employees, and the thousands of contractors that work with us. And it’s our job to put the people who work for Talos in a position where they can make the best decisions possible, they’re engaged in our HSE processes and they’re empowered to speak up if something is not right.

– Well, thanks ever so much for coming in. Thank you for coming to the event and thank you for doing the interview. I look forward to seeing you on HSE Network again.

– Sounds great, Paul.