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Promoting safety on the North Slope

  • Author: Brian Walden
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 10
  • Published January 12

FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2006 file photo BP workers, in the background, remove insulation from an oil transit pipeline at the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska's North Slope. BP, a major player on Alaska's North Slope for decades, is selling all of its assets in the state, the company announced Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. Hilcorp Alaska is purchasing BP interests in both the Prudhoe Bay oil field and the trans-Alaska pipeline for $5.6 billion, BP announced in a release. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

Safe work happens because people are committed to sending their friends and colleagues home in the same condition they showed up in. Hilcorp, along with other exploration and production companies in Alaska, has introduced new technology to expand training, improve comprehension and verify individual skill levels to protect the people, the environment and the communities where they live and work.

Hilcorp understands there is no written rule for keeping people from getting hurt. To promote safety, the company implements best practices and engages the front-line leadership of the company who drive early reporting of even the most minor of incidents.

Hilcorp Alaska’s total recordable incident rate was 37.5% lower than the industry-wide average in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The company realized a dramatic 85% decline in incidents between 2012 and 2018. This is remarkable, considering their workload has nearly quadrupled during the same time period.

Most people don’t know this, but a broken finger, stitches, a chipped tooth or even non-prescription medications administered at prescription strength are considered “recordable injuries” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) recordkeeping standard (29 CFR 1904).

Hilcorp introduced the “Pause Program,” which asks people to intervene and pause a job in the event someone sees something they perceive as unsafe or at risk. They ask people to actually stop the job and find safer ways to conduct work. Let’s face it; you cannot engineer out the human factor.

Contractors must also meet stringent requirements to win and conduct contract work. Hilcorp has implemented a Contractor Management Selection and Evaluation Procedure, which provides guidance for selecting, evaluating and verifying service providers and vendors safety performance is acceptable enough to be considered for project work with their company.

They’ve introduced a program called “Safety Watch” for all their vendors, third-party contractors and suppliers which basically provides a framework of safety expectations which must be met in order to fully receive contract funds.

As a long-time safety professional, I can attest to the level of professionalism and dedication the Hilcorp Alaska safety team has. Some of them are my former coworkers and past employees. I can tell you when an incident happens, it affects them personally.

It’s more than a job, because that team of safety professionals truly care about the people who are performing the work in the field. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drilling contractor or an functional check-out technician, Hilcorp wants you to work as safely and efficiently as possible. They have been open to ideas and hold regular contractor meetings which are specifically designed to gain insight as to how they can help make the workplace safer.

Hilcorp works hard to conduct its operations responsibly and communicate relevant operational information. Their mission is to protect life, enhance public safety, improve emergency preparedness, increase protection of the environment and prevent damage to property and facilities. Working in some of the world’s worst weather conditions in some of the most remote locations in Alaska, safety is at the core of everything they do.

Brian Walden is a certified safety professional and owns a safety company called SLP Alaska, which stands for “Safety, Leadership, Performance.”

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