Perhaps the most valuable asset for any company is its talent—the people who make the business run. That’s why there are entire industry sectors devoted to protecting talent capital and making sure employees stay safe and healthy on the job. With common principles at the very foundation, ensuring health and safety requires different courses of action for different industries.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor recorded approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employees. While this number has been on the decline, the bulk of those injuries are reported from four main sectors—construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade and retail trade. For industries where a day on the job requires much more than 8 hours logged at a desk, there’s no such thing as too many precautions.
“You know you’ve stepped onto an oil company’s site because you can feel it,” says Kay Breeden, CBRE senior managing director for Health, Safety & Environment for the Americas Global Workplace Solutions group. “Yes, this industry puts employees in high-risk environments on a daily basis; however, these companies take pride in their safety culture and their employees genuinely care for each other’s personal safety.”
By fostering a culture of safety and embedding it into day-to-day life at the office, they have some of the lowest injury rates of any industry.
Widely known for having some of the most stringent safety requirements, oil and gas companies are highly aware of the fact that when the risks are greater, there’s a greater need to have procedures and protocols in place at every level of the company. By fostering a culture of safety and embedding it into day-to-day life at the office, they have some of the lowest injury rates of any industry.
“Rules do not drive a strong safety culture, pride and accountability drive a culture, and once that’s been established things tend to fall into place,” Breeden adds. “If you walk down the stairs in an oil and gas building without holding the stair rail, people will call you out on it. Everyone’s looking out for one another, taking accountability for the safety of others and making each other accountable too.”
For work environments posing less risk, health and safety precautions are no less important—just less prevalent.
“In general, your average office workers don’t have to worry about pressurized pipelines, big explosions, oil releases or things of that nature. To the same degree, an oil and gas company might not have to worry as much about ergonomics because they don’t have that same sort of workplace. So although the risks are different, we find that the big picture principles are kind of similar,” explains John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute, the center of EHS excellence within the National Safety Council.
For a standard office setting, Dony notes two to three major risk factors that affect employees: emergency evacuation situations, ergonomics-related injuries and trip-and-fall risk. While most major companies have evacuation plans in place and run drills so employees know how to respond, fewer take the lesser risks as seriously. However, as the workplace becomes more digital and remote, workers will spend more of their time hunched over a desk, staring at a screen with a phone pressed between shoulder and ear, making ergonomic-friendly office outfitting even more important to mitigating strains and sprains.
“We’re working to help companies realize that safety isn’t only as important as production, but is actually an accelerator to profitability and production.”
Just as oil and gas companies work to make safety a part of company culture, so too does the National Safety Council work to promote the idea that safe workplaces equal greater outcomes: “The mentality for most companies is that production is more important than safety, and that can be true in the knowledge-worker world as much as it is in the physical-worker world,” Dony says. “We’re working to help companies realize that safety isn’t only as important as production, but is actually an accelerator to profitability and production.”