Under Saddam Hussein's regime, safety wasn't a priority at the supergiant Rumaila field in Iraq; but now it's a very different story as BP and its partners go to work there each day. Read how simple rules and regular site visits by leaders have brought about a transformation.
Improving safety in Iraq
BP has been at work for over two years in the huge Rumaila field – an operation that provides the Iraqi government with around half its revenues. BP is the lead contractor for Rumaila with partners from Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company (SOC), PetroChina, and the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO).
Production volumes have increased and there has also been a major change in safety performance – so much so that the team won the top accolade at BP’s company awards – the Helios Awards.
The Iraq team was chosen from over 1,000 entries as the one that best summed up ‘BP at its best’ by demonstrating the company’s values – safety, respect, excellence, courage and one team.
BP’s health, safety and environment (HSE) manager at Rumaila Melvin Sinquefield explains the background: “For the previous two decades, the number one priority at Rumaila was production - everything else, including safety, was secondary. If something went wrong the operators were expected to get out there and fix it as quickly as they could, without regard for their personal safety. Maintenance wasn’t seen as important either. We were working with facilities and equipment that were in a poor state of repair and so worn out that they presented increased process safety risks.
“As a result, Rumaila’s safety record was poorer than we’d find at other onshore facilities, with not infrequent workplace fatalities, an average of two high potential incidents every month, and personal safety injuries that were all-too commonplace.
“When BP first arrived, people were walking around in flip-flops with no personal protective equipment. Our challenge wasn’t so much changing the culture - that takes years to bring about - it was more about changing immediate behaviours, particularly around control of work.”
Eight golden rules
One of the ways Sinquefield and his team tackled the problem was to introduce one of BP’s operational safety mainstays: the eight golden rules of safety. Introduced at BP in 2000, the golden rules cover the most hazardous types of oilfield activity across eight categories: permit to work, energy isolation, ground disturbance, confined space entry, working at heights, lifting operations, driving safety, and management of change.
Sinquefield knew that the key would be to communicate the golden rules in a way that really stuck in the minds of the Iraqi operators. The solution he came up with was a set of safety conformance checklists for 26 senior leaders from all three of the partner organizations to use in a carefully planned programme of site visits.