Skip to Content

Safety must become part of our culture

August 26, 2002, 01:00 CEST

We all know that rules and behavior do not always go hand in hand. Anyone who drives a car has only to think of they way they relate to parking zones, speed limits and U-turns when they are in a hurry and its important to get there in time...

”Our internal efforts in Hydro, together with shared learning with other companies offshore and a good collaboration with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have given us good safety regulations in Hydro,” says Gunnar Breivik, who is in charge of health, safety and environment on the Norwegian shelf.

”These regulations must be constantly quality assured, and we carry out drills. But very many of the incidents on Hydro’s installations take place despite the regulations, despite the fact that we know better. To improve, we have to work on our attitudes and values, with our culture.”

The new Hydro index offers opportunities
And this is where it gets exciting. Hydro is a pioneer in this area on the Norwegian shelf. The development and use of the Hydro index offers new perspectives in the focused work on safety carried out in the company.

Three years of research in Hydro on the connection between values, attitudes and behavior have given new insights. Thousands of employees have answered the questions in the large-scale research project on diversity in Hydro. This looks at attitudes, at connections. The answers are compared with actual behavior in the organization. Sick leave, incidents, production, results, delays...

The task was to identify recurring attitudes in individuals and groups with certain types of behavior. If a connection could be found, it would be possible to measure the risk of negative behavior – before attitudes become action. And it would be possible to direct the work on changing attitudes more accurately and to assess whether measures are effective over time.

International attention
The project manager for the development of the Hydro index, research scientist Yngve Lindvig at the Institute of Educational Research at the University of Oslo, found clear connections.

“Many people were surprised at connections that had not been identified before. Our findings have, in fact, attracted international attention,” he says.

”This is because we have succeeded in singling out and putting together attitudes that statistically give an outstanding opportunity to predict the behavior of the individual or the organization. We started by asking people several hundred questions, and have now managed to reduce the number to 40. This has given us a tool that we can use actively and throughout the whole organization without generating major costs.

The Hydro index will now replace the traditional psychosocial surveys that the organization used previously. Everyone in the offshore operations organization has been asked to reply to the 40 questions.

”Hydro’s work on safety culture represents a positive follow-up of the new regulations on health, safety and environment,” says Angela Ebbesen in the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. For several years she has been in charge of the Directorate’s monitoring activities and is currently working on HSE and public affairs.

“At the safety seminar that Hydro arranged last autumn, it was positive to note that management is taking on a particular responsibility for the development of a good HSE culture. Efforts seem to correspond well the expectations expressed in Report no. 7 to the Storting on safety offshore,” she says.

“Safety culture is primarily a management responsibility; culture develops from whatever management gives focus and priority. Culture is part of the furniture in an organization and gives people a gut feeling about ”what we do here”. As I see it, Hydro’s model focuses on both individual values and behavior, and on the organization’s culture and structure. The challenge is to work on both at the same time. Experience is what counts.”