Building a Safety Culture; Introducing the ExxonMobil Human Performance Model
12 October 2023, Georgetown, Guyana; A key part of the ExxonMobil proactive approach to ensure the safety of its workforce and those of contractors is the Human Performance Model. The model provides a framework that focuses on 5 factors; Leadership and Teamwork, Design, Normal Work, Higher Consequence Work, and Learning. This article provides an overview of the core elements of the ‘Normal Work’ and ‘Higher Consequence Work’ of the Human Performance Model. The key concepts of these 2 elements are Hold Points and Triggers, the identification and mitigation of Error Prone Situations, and the significance of After Action Reviews in continuous learning and improvement.
Having focused on workforce safety from the start, TOTALTEC CEO Lars Mangal commented, “This model forms an important part of building a safety culture in those companies and their workforces taking part in Guyana’s new energy industry. There is much Guyana can learn about safety from the long experience of ExxonMobil.”
What follows is an overview of 2 of the 5 elements of the model; Normal Work and Higher Consequence Work.
Normal and Higher Consequence Work
'Normal Work' encompasses the routine tasks and processes that employees perform daily. 'Higher Consequence Work' involves activities with an elevated potential for severe consequences, such as tasks conducted less frequently or ones with the presence of higher risk hazards, such as high pressure, lifting heavy loads, entering confined spaces.
Having these 2 categories allows workers and supervisors to prioritize and focus on areas of higher risk.
Interrupters: Hold Points and Triggers
Hold Points and Triggers introduce the idea that stopping work at key points, both planned and unplanned, is critical to ensuring safety.
Hold Points: These planned interruptions are strategically positioned within a work process. Their purpose is to act as critical checkpoints, especially when the worker is the last line of defense and about to undertake an unrecoverable step – an action from which there is no turning back. At these predefined junctures, workers pause to assess if all necessary steps have been executed and if essential safeguards are in place. Much like stop signs on the road, Hold Points are indispensable for ensuring that safety measures are rigorously adhered to before proceeding.
Triggers: Triggers are observable conditions or behaviors that serve as vital cues, warning that an unmitigated hazard may be present or that an Error Prone Situation is imminent. These conditions prompt workers to stop or pause their work. This brief interruption allows them to slow down their thinking, assess risks, and take necessary actions to mitigate hazards. Error Prone Situations are akin to "human performance traps," increasing the likelihood of errors during specific tasks.
Commented Mangal, “Critical here is the idea that any worker, anywhere, any time, can and should stop the work if they see or don’t understand something that could pose a risk. Frameworks like this keep ExxonMobil a leader in safety."
Error Prone Situations and Safety Culture
The Human Performance Model categorizes Error Prone Situations into three areas:
1. Work Environment Factors: These pertain to organizational and environmental aspects such as workplace design, equipment, and overall work environment. Conditions like confusing displays, production overemphasis, and inadequate controls can make work more error-prone.
2. Task Factors: These encompass existing job-site conditions that influence behavior, including job design and information transfer. Unclear standards, time pressure, and simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) are examples of factors that can create error-prone conditions.
3. Individual Factors: These revolve around the unique mental, physical, and emotional abilities of individuals. Fatigue, bias, and distractions are examples of individual factors that can impact safety.
Identifying and addressing these error-prone situations is essential for creating a safer work environment and preventing accidents.
After Action Reviews
After Action Reviews (AARs) are a crucial element for both ‘Normal’ and ‘Higher Consequnce Work’. These reviews provide a structured, quick, and simple learning process that involves the workers directly involved in the activities.
AARs focus on understanding how the work was actually executed, ‘what really happened’, and identifying valuable lessons from both successful sub-optimal work.
AARs are centered around four key questions and should be conducted after higher risk tasks, such as LSA (Life-Saving Actions) or T1BP (Tier 1 Business Process):
1. What was supposed to happen?
2. What actually happened?
3. Why was there a difference?
4. What will we do differently next time?
By engaging in AARs, teams actively learn from real experiences, building a safety culture, as well as one of continuous improvement.
Summarized Mangal, "All companies in Guyana could benefit from studying the ExxonMobil Human Performance Model, and ensuring their own management systems have a similarly comprehensive approach to workplace safety.”
More to Explore
Learn about how ExxonMobil is leading in personnel safety from their recent report on the topic.
See an informative article on ‘The Principles of Human Performance’, which includes many references.
About TOTALTEC Inc.:
TOTALTEC Inc. is a majority Guyanese owned and operated company focused on building capacity in Guyana in support of the energy industry for the benefit of the country, its people, and partner companies. It does this through services and partnerships that both add value and build capacity. Services include infrastructure development, workforce management, supply chain logistics, training, specialized engineering and consultancy services. Qualified and motivated Guyanese develop through the TOTALTEC Academy, where more than 2,500 have been trained to international standards. Partnerships prioritize products and services that are starting points to grow from, creating Guyanese led companies, for example Jaguar Oilfield Services. Facilities include modular offices/shop/lab fabrication, open yards and storage areas. The TOTALTEC 96% Guyanese workforce includes 6 nationalities with more than 180 years of international oilfield experience. https://www.totaltec-os.com/
A key part of the ExxonMobil proactive approach to ensure the safety of its workforce is the Human Performance Model. The model provides a framework that focuses on 5 factors; Leadership and Teamwork, Design, Normal Work, Higher Consequence Work, and Learning.