The Weekly Reflektion 04/2022

Sometimes we need a reminder of the importance of our quest to prevent Major Accidents. What better example than how a Major Accident can significantly affect peoples’ lives.

Fire on the Deepwater Horizon April 2010

Do you practice mindful leadership in your organisation?

Thank you to Mike Smith in Lotos for bringing an article in the Guardian Newspaper to our attention.

The article is a moving account of the effect of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon 20th April on one of the survivors and his wife. The initial message that there had been an incident on the rig a husband was working on, and the headline that the rig was being evacuated. The live coverage of the fire and the commentary on a disaster and multiple fatalities. The wife’s uncertainty on whether her husband was among the survivors. The wife’s relief when the message is received that her husband has survived. The wife’s recognition that the disaster would change her husband and therefore herself forever.

The article also reflects over the fossil energy business and the modern worlds dependence on coal, oil, and gas and the many tragedies that have taken place in exploiting these resources.

When we use Major Accidents in our presentations, seminars and of course in our Weekly Reflektions then we can put the disasters behind us when we are finished. While we are affected by the examples we use, we may be shocked frustrated, sometimes angry, we are not however personally involved, and we can move on. The next of kin for the ones that didn’t make it, and the survivors and their families are not so lucky.

So, what does this mean for the fossil fuel industry and the people working in it and for the people responsible for the safe and efficient operation? Will an article on the human cost make us improve on Major Accident prevention? Will the recognition that people are significantly affected by Major Accidents change the way we work? Will it stimulate to the continuous improvement that the authorities and the public demand, and the industries themselves aspire to?   

These are the types of questions that often hang around when articles like this are presented. They become rhetorical questions that create a moment of silence before everyone returns to their daily tasks. Behind the question is a perhaps a perception that things are better now or perhaps better here. We may believe the systems we have in place are pretty good and it is unlikely that an incident like Deepwater Horizon will happen to us. There may be good reasons for why this is correct and why the feeling that it won’t happen to us is justified. The response to this is how sure can you be, or rather how sure do you need to be?

Andrew Hopkins, a leading specialist in safety, introduced the concept of ‘chronic unease’ to encourage an organisation to continually question whether the systems for prevention of incidents and accident are in place and working. The term was adapted to ‘mindful leadership’ as the term ‘chronic’ was not considered so appealing. The message is the same, don’t be complacent and assume that just because nothing untoward happened yesterday it can’t happen tomorrow. Continually question and verify that the systems are good enough and working satisfactory, learn and improve. Are you mindful?

Reflekt AS