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  • David Jenkins

Initial Assessment of Site HSE Performance in Less than 60 minutes: Four Essential Tips for Professionals & Leaders

After nearly 40 years as a safety professional I’ve had the privilege of visiting many hundreds of sites around the world - onshore, offshore, large, small, above ground and below ground.  While each one had its own nuances, over the years I came to realize that, regardless of where they were and what they were, I could quickly gain a sense as to if there might be an underlying problem with site HSE.

It boiled down to 4 key things which, for most site visits, can be uncovered in less than an hour.


THE INDUCTION - is it relevant to the scope of your visit?   

If you’re doing a day visit, not working on the site and will be escorted everywhere you go, then the need for anything much more complicated than simple guidance on alarms and muster points with key telephone numbers on the back of your visitor pass and a conversation with your host that covers any specific site hazards that day, a check you have all relevant PPE and clear instructions to remain escorted at all times should suffice.

If an induction video is much longer than 3 minutes it’s my first red flag.  The average attention span for videos is less than 2 minutes and studies suggest you have ~8 seconds to grab the audience.  TV news segments average just over 2 minutes and convey a lot of information quite effectively - that’s a good target.

If, instead, somebody sits me down in front of a video (or in a briefing room) and gives me the same induction as a full time in-field worker which covers a whole range of risks and topics I don’t need to know and it takes 30-60 minutes then that’s my other ‘red flag’.

Offices - If I can take my children and dog to a large hardware store full of sharp tools, surrounded by stacked heavy materials and toxic chemicals, or regularly stay in large hotels and don’t receive an induction, what is so special about risks in an office people feel compelled to require inductions for visitors who will inevitably be escorted.    

One of the shortest visitor inductions I heard of (at a large hazardous industrial site) went along lines of ‘Welcome to site ‘x’.  Please read the information on the back of your visitor card.  Your host is accountable for ensuring your safety - please follow their instructions at all times.  Enjoy your visit’

What’s the issue: Where provided, inductions should be short, sharp, focused and relevant.  They are the first thing people see, the early window into the organizational structure.  If they are poor (or irrelevant) then it raises questions in my mind as to how well other aspects of the HSE system are being implemented and if HSE resources are being appropriately utilized.

Recommendation: Good quality inductions provide early positive engagement and set the tone for everything else which follows.  They also ensure effective use of time and resources so can save money in the process.


PPE COMPLIANCE - being worn and worn correctly

This is an easy one - is PPE being worn and worn correctly (e.g. helmet chin straps used where required, safety glasses on and fitting, harnesses properly adjusted, footwear in good condition and suited for task, coveralls in good condition, gloves worn, etc).  As importantly is this being done by 100% of the personnel 100% of the time.  Non-compliance (especially multiple non-compliance) is a red flag but can arise from poor leadership and / or poor quality PPE inhibiting correct use.

What’s the issue: PPE is, or should be, one of the easiest thing to manage.  It’s simple to set clear expectations and is one of the easiest things for Supervisors and Senior Site Leaders to observe and enforce.  Observation of routine non-compliance is a red flag because if a site cannot get PPE right then it calls into question the quality of leadership and how more complex expectations for high hazard tasks are set and enforced.

Recommendation: Understanding the ‘why’ for non-compliance is important (it might be a procurement and availability issue or quality of PPE provided) but when done well it sets the tone from the very first minute for a new worker at the site that ‘this is the way we work’. 


HOUSEKEEPING & STORAGE - hidden hazards

One of my routines when I went to a rig or a vessel was to ask for a tour from stem to stern and bilges to bridge.  I would randomly open storage lockers, especially in areas not often visited.  At the same time I'm looking to see if all machinery room deck plates are secure and well maintained, workshop areas are clean and tidy and if materials which could move in rough weather are appropriately secured.  If the deck plates are oily or unsecured, or locker spaces and storage areas untidy it’s a red flag.   

Onshore it was a similar approach but more offices, machinery maintenance areas, warehousing and general site ‘hygiene’.  In offices it’s general untidiness, tripping hazards from damaged carpets, dirty community eating areas, the dusty cardboard filing boxes stacked in corners, under desks, in hallways or (on more than one occasion in my career) in fire exit stairwells.

I once went to a multi-billion dollar construction project site which was struggling. The project planner’s desk looked as though somebody had tipped a large bucket of paperwork over it - I’m not blaming the eventual $1 billion overrun solely on them but I did reflect at the time if you can’t plan your desk how can you plan a project of this scale.  Off topic but this, by the way, was the same site where the contractor workforce spent 40mins in poorly structured toolbox talks before starting any work, the lost productivity was enormous.

Why it Matters:

Sites which have poor housekeeping standards are likely to create hazardous working conditions as a result and encourage and reinforce poor behaviors in other areas.

Recommendation: Good housekeeping and safe storage of materials is fundamental to a safe and productive worksite.    It requires leadership and discipline to achieve and maintain and is one of the fundamentals of the 5S methodology which underpins many lean manufacturing programs.


A SENSE OF ORDER - does the site layout seem right?

This is a judgement call and does rely largely on experience.  For vessels it was assessing if the deck layout was optimized to reduce potential for entrapment when handling loads, slips / trips / falls, or the need to work at height.

For onshore sites it was provision of safe pedestrian walkways from vehicle park up areas; the need for, and compliance with, reverse parking; the use of one way systems for traffic to reduce potential for crashes; open air materials storage areas well planned to allow safe access for materials handling trucks and support personnel; good use of safety and direction signage; roadways and pathways well maintained and graded; etc.

Some years ago I was a member of an internal governance audit team at a shale drilling site.  They had just finished completion and were in the final process of demobilizing equipment.  It was a complete shambles, large heavy road-going equipment weaving around trying to get out, cranes in operation, people packing up equipment with backs close to adjacent moving plant, nobody in apparent charge.  All-in-all a high potential for serious injury or fatality - we shut the site down for 24hrs, regrouped and completed the demobilization safely.

The outcome was standardization of shale site layouts, one way road systems, integrated planning of dedicated park map areas and safe walkways, better supervision of demobilizations.  We actually got more efficient as well as safer performance

Why it Matters:

Poorly laid out sites can introduce inherent and potentially fatal hazards.  They are also inefficient and thus more likely to incur greater cost of operation.

Recommendation: Similar to housekeeping and storage, a well laid out site encourages safe behaviors, reduces risk and reduces cost of operation.



These are my ‘red flag’ triggers, I hope you find them useful.  They are not an assessment of HSE performance in isolation but do help provide you with some areas which if one or more are present then you should consider probing more deeply.

They are easy to use and in most cases don’t require much experience to apply good judgment even if you’re not an HSE specialist or familiar with the specific operation being visited.  If nothing else they can act as question prompts for the visitor.

As always, if you need more information or assistance feel free to reach out at:

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