Shell Todd Oil Services

Zero harm @ Ruru

After 140 days of drilling in the Tasman Sea, involving 158,000 people hours, Shell Todd Oil Services Limited (STOS) completed its Ruru exploration campaign with zero injuries and no near-misses.

The project used the Kan Tan IV and involved around the clock drilling between October 2014 and January 2015. The target was 5,100 metres below the sea floor and there were approximately 250 workers on the campaign, 75 per cent of them Kiwis. The technical and equipment challenges were significant.

STOS has a zealous health and safety standard known as ‘Goal Zero’ which aims to ensure operations do no harm to either people or the environment.

The challenge, in the venture’s first exploration campaign since the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, was how to transform a heavy manual of safety processes into an on-site culture where everyone believed zero harm was achievable.

Goal Zero is founded on three ‘Golden Rules’: comply with all rules; intervene if you see an unsafe situation; and respect your neighbours. Additionally, there are 12 ‘Life Saving Rules’ to implement the company’s health and safety standards.

All senior leaders physically signed up to the Goal Zero approach and this extended to regular rig visits from senior leadership. This provided visible safety leadership and a show of commitment.

STOS says a ‘Hearts and Minds’ methodology and a ‘One Team’ approach were crucial to the health and safety strategy for the campaign. The crusade was led by the Owen Hey, general manager for well delivery at STOS.

Hearts and Minds is about personal responsibility, individual consequences and proactive interventions, where everyone is equal and has the same goals.

Hey wanted to avoid prescriptive approaches and micro-management of staff. He also made it very clear to the team that pauses in the schedule were acceptable to ensure Goal Zero. This behaviour became the norm throughout the team.

Health and safety planning for the Ruru campaign began six months before drilling started, with a focus on contractor management. This saw joint safety improvement plans and safety critical controls developed for all activities.

The team’s induction saw people attend one of 10, day-long introductory courses, where all crew members heard from Lisa Tamati, a local celebrity. Her message: 100 pairs of eyes are better than two and that anything is possible, including Goal Zero.

Other initiatives included training or tips for stopping a job if it was unsafe, and the use of STOP cards to allow crew to share intervention experiences. The best STOP card was rewarded at morning meetings. There were up to 100 cards received each day, resulting in a normalised safety-first approach that empowered team members to intervene.

STOS evolved the common industry practice of having a safety coach on board by providing assist and assure safety engineers. The engineers knew all of the crew and were able to provide instant, practical advice and on-the-job audits.

Safety performance was also celebrated with monetary rewards.  The team collectively set a target 50 per cent based on health and safety and 50 per cent based on efficiency. Goals were reviewed weekly and an Olympic-style reward system helped add a fun culture which extended safety conversations into non-work or off-shift times.

STOS says Zero Harm @ Ruru has changed the safety drilling culture in New Zealand. Learnings from the campaign have been shared with the wider Shell Group and the industry in New Zealand.

The Health and Safety Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by The Electricity Networks' Association