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Creating a culture of safety

A rigorous program of safety procedures and protocols have helped the project nearly match last year’s safety record, which was one of the safest on record as measured by the Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), which captures the project’s overall safety performance by including even minor injury accidents. These results continued the steady trend of reductions in the average TRIR since the beginning of the project, largely due to the philosophy that the best response to accidents is to prevent them in the first place. An important element of this philosophy is the expectation that all project workers are continuously identifying hazards and helping to remove and/or mitigate them from their work areas.

The Chad/Cameroon Development Project follows United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for recording accidents and injuries, even though the project’s activities take place outside the United States. The OSHA guidelines provide a comprehensive, consistent, internationally recognized standard by which the project’s safety performance can be evaluated.

Safety drills

EEPCI’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) is the first responder for an emergency at the project’s operations facility, Komé 5, or the nearby headquarters for drilling operations, Komé Base. The team is led by an Emergency Response Coordinator and Lead Safety Manager and is comprised of a multidisciplinary group of employees, each of whom has responsibilities in addition to emergency response. The team conducts scheduled and unscheduled safety drills nearly every week, often including members of other departments.

When a high-risk activity is about to be carried out, the ERT members are placed on standby. In an active emergency, their job is to retrieve injured personnel and secure the site. To accomplish this, each member has a predefined role and specialized equipment ready to handle any scenario.

The drill pictured to the left involves a hypothetical worker who has become unconscious while working at height on a scaffold. No other information is made available to the response team in order to replicate real life conditions, which often have multiple unknown and dynamic factors. During the drill, the rescuers who are working at height must secure themselves using three-point contacts and maintain continuous communication with their leads on the ground. At the conclusion of every drill, in an effort to improve response times and effectiveness, the team meets to discuss their observations and share any findings they may have.

  • Faustin Lartoloum, ERT and Projects Safety Advisor/Safety Coordinator

    “We hope we never have to respond, but we continue to practice so if we are called upon, we can respond effectively.”

  • Arlene Lee, OIMS/Safety Superintendent

    “I am so proud of this team. In addition to helping protect our workers on site, the ERT members take their knowledge and experience and act as first responders in their own communities, which can save lives. This is particularly important because many communities in Chad don’t have first response capabilities.”

Komé Integrated Leadership Team

A key contributor to the project’s strong safety record in 2014 is the Komé Integrated Leadership Team, or KILT. The KILT, which was created following an external Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) assessment conducted on the project in 2012, is a cross-functional working group focused on ensuring that the work is safely and effectively carried out. The OIMS assessment is a cornerstone of ExxonMobil’s commitment to responsible, effective and safe operations. The members of the KILT are the highest level managers at EEPCI and its contractors for each focus area, underscoring the importance the project places on safety throughout the organization.

The team consists of five subgroups with rotating members who bring a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds to bear on a number of activities, including planned and unplanned site visits across all areas of the project. For example, a site visit at a drilling rig could be conducted by an EMP superintendent and a warehouse supervisor, each utilizing their unique experience and perspective to uncover previously unseen gaps and to offer new insights on safe work practices.

The KILT team regularly meets at Loss Prevention Observations (LPO) meetings. Often, the meetings result in new policy to address a gap that the group has uncovered. Findings are recorded and then fed back into biweekly safety meetings, which occur across the project’s functional groups. In that way the entire organization can receive feedback promptly to continuously improve safety and work management practices.

Maintaining a safe drilling operation

As the project transitioned into its extended drilling program, a mandatory stand down of all drilling and well work operations was imposed for a period of 12 days in October. This was in response to several minor injuries and near misses that had occurred over the prior three months. While the overall number of recordable injuries during the year was still low compared to U.S. petroleum industry rates and other relevant indicators, those minor incidents occurred in close succession, triggering the project’s decision to halt drilling and well work operations to identify and correct any causal factors.

  • Joe Pace, Well Work Operations Superintendent

    “From a safety perspective, the Chad/Cameroon Development Project’s Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) is one of the best performing business units within ExxonMobil, a company that is the safest in the world in its industry. What we’ve proactively done with the stand down is make some improvements in our process to make sure we stay that way.”

During the stand down, the entire well work organization refocused its attention on safety, with all field operations workers undergoing a comprehensive training and a refresher course on their job requirements, duties and procedures. A safety forum for 700 drilling employees was held with remarks from the EEPCI General Manager, Scott Miller, and other managers. A specialized team traveled from ExxonMobil’s Houston, Texas, offices for a week-long review of safety culture, protocols and work habits. This team observed how the crews operate, conducted Job Safety Analyses and met with various functional groups to gather additional information. Findings were discussed daily between functional groups at the operations facilities in Komé, the N’Djamena headquarters and ExxonMobil’s corporate offices in Houston. While this work unearthed several contributory factors that led to some of the issues, it also revealed many positive findings.

EEPCI’S construction department reaches a 10 year safety milestone

The project’s construction department in Chad has operated for over 10 years without a single Lost Time Injury. The department’s activities, which are considered to involve higher risk than many others, include all crane, scaffolding and construction work in the oilfield area. The department, which logged over one million man-hours in 2014, is leading the LK Liquids, Crude Firing and Polymer Pilot projects, all critical for extending and maximizing production.

Recordable incident rate

The project continued its strong safety performance from 2013, as determined by a measure of all recordable safety incidents per 200,000 working hours. The project’s Recordable Incident Rate has for years been well below the average rate of the U. S. petroleum industry as a whole, and outperformed this benchmark by nearly 40% in 2014. The industry benchmark for the U.S. petroleum industry is derived from reports to the American Petroleum Institute by participating companies. The project achieves these results through setting long-term goals, strict adherence to operational integrity protocol and maintaining an employee culture that is highly focused on safety at work and at home.

Recordable incident rate

  • Albert Ateba, EMP Manager, (formerly Lom Pangar Project Safety Manager)

    Lom Pangar Modification Completed Safely

    The Lom Pangar Pipeline Modification project was successfully completed without a single Lost Time Injury over 1.2 million man-hours invested.

    “This effort required almost 350 new people with 14 different nationalities working on various jobs over 45 kilometers of pipeline. Many weren’t familiar with our safety culture, procedures and management system, so we had to work hard to get them up to speed on our practices and keep everyone focused on safety. When you’re in the field, safety is no longer about theory. Extensive planning, clear goals, regular training, safety meetings and buy-in by project leadership were all important to our success on this front. Even though this was a highly challenging effort, it was worth it because at the end of the day, we achieved a good result.”

Spotlight: Uniting for safer roads

On November 21, COTCO participated in Cameroon’s Road Safety Day. The event was developed in partnership with a Cameroon-based working collective, called the Road Safety Work Team, which is made up of some of Cameroon’s largest companies, all of whom travel extensively on Cameroon’s roads to conduct their business activities. The group meets regularly to share best practices to not only reduce the risk of traffic accidents within their respective fleets, but to help make Cameroon’s roads safer for all drivers.

The Road Safety Day brought together a number of various representatives of transportation companies, automotive maintenance service providers, vehicle dealers, companies with large fleets of vehicles and transportation trade unions, many of whom hosted or participated in a range of activities such as workshops on safe driving practices in a variety of road, driver and vehicle conditions.

Retrofitting grain milling equipment in the Oilfield Development Area

A visit to several villages in the OFDA by a senior manager from ExxonMobil resulted in safety improvements to grain milling equipment throughout the area. The equipment, commonly installed through the community compensation program, significantly reduces the burden placed upon female villagers by drastically reducing the time and effort required to prepare food for their families each day. During the visit, it was observed that the exposed belts and rotating machinery, which are commonplace on these kinds of grain mills, presented a potential safety hazard to the machine operators and bystanders.

Although no injuries had occurred, the executive identified the potential hazard, the result of a fresh perspective and extensive risk management training that runs throughout the organization. The company subsequently designed and installed safety devices on 10 mills in the OFDA, and they will be incorporated into new community milling devices the project installs.

Ebola preparedness

The emergence of Ebola in West Africa has prompted the project’s Medicine and Occupational Health Departments (MOH) in Chad and Cameroon to take action to protect project employees and the general population.

For months, the department has been preparing for the possibility of Ebola in one or both of the host countries. It has worked directly with the Cameroonian and Chadian governments to develop both preventative and responsive measures for infectious diseases, with particular attention on Ebola. Project staff drew upon the experience gained by their colleagues at the ExxonMobil affiliate in Nigeria, who participated in that country’s successful response to the outbreak there. The project’s recommendations have impacted national policy. For example, Chad now mandates hand washing stations and temperature screening using no-touch thermometers for travelers entering the country through the N’Djamena airport. Cameroon’s Ministry of Health congratulated COTCO for its rapid response and strategic engagement with the country’s Ebola preparedness effort.

In addition, the project’s affiliates in Chad and Cameroon each have an Infectious Disease Outbreak Management group (IDOM), comprised of top management from the major departments within each company. The groups meet regularly to create strategies for managing potential infectious diseases.

The following are some of the company-wide actions COTCO and EEPCI have taken based on recommendations by the IDOM groups:

  • Conducting mandatory screenings of every traveler entering company facilities and requiring employees who show symptoms of illness to undergo in-depth assessment and travel restrictions
  • Educating all employees about the disease
  • Restricting employees from reporting for work within one month of travelling from an Ebola impacted country, which exceeds the 2 to 21 day incubation period of Ebola
  • Pre-ordering necessary supplies, including medicine and personal protective equipment (PPE), to avoid triggering regional shortages
  • Conducting Ebola preparedness drills at project facilities to ensure proper execution of procedures and effective use of the necessary PPE

Malaria prevention

The malaria infection rate for non-immune project workers has been dramatically reduced over the years as a result of the project’s intensive malaria prevention initiative. As the graph shows, the annual rate has been cut sharply from 11.44 in 2002, the last full year of export pipeline construction.

Free health care consultations for workers at project facility clinics are a valued job benefit in Chad and Cameroon, where health care can be difficult to obtain, especially in rural areas. The majority of this care involved illnesses or other health conditions unrelated to the workplace.

Malaria infection rates

EEPCI Sports Association: Keeping fit with co-workers

Below, EEPCI employees play football against a team organized by another N’Djamena business, in a game organized by the company’s Sports Association. The association is organized by and is open to all of the company’s employees as a way to encourage a healthy lifestyle and foster productive relationships and a collegial atmosphere within the company. In addition to the football team, the association holds regular gym sessions and is planning on creating a basketball team as well to accommodate the various interests of its members.

  • Stephane Daboulaye, Operations Integrity Management Systems Coordinator, EEPCI

    “Many of our employees work long hours so it is difficult for them to play on outside teams or have enough time to go to the gym, but we can integrate our schedules with the EEPCI Sports Association. This helps us manage our health and provides a great bonding opportunity by bringing together people at all levels of this company, from management to operations to security to cleaners and contractors.”