Accountability Saves Lives

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Executives love clichés. In annual reports, they express shock that another year is in the books. In marketing materials, they boast of their organizations’ commitment to going the extra mile, thinking outside the box and delivering maximum return on investment.

Too often, they often leave their audiences scratching their heads and looking for the value add in their latest product or service.

Corporate-speak doesn’t fly in the oil field. There are no SVPS of sustainability and corporate responsibility here. If you want to deliver a message to these tool pushers, rough necks and derrick men, you better speak in plain language. It’s a language Larry Homen is fluent in.

Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy reviews the job safety analysis with Texas Mutual's Larry Homen during a recent visit to an oil well outside Lubbock.

During his lunch break, Raul Vega (right) of Standard Energy reviews the job hazard analysis (JHA) with Texas Mutual’s Larry Homen during a recent visit to an oil well outside Lubbock. Click on the photo for more information about JHAs.

Larry spent years as a welder in the oil field, narrowly escaping serious injuries more times than he cares to remember. He learned valuable lessons during that time, and he devoted the rest of his life to sharing those lessons with anyone who will listen.

Today, Larry is a certified safety professional with a degree in engineering technology. His “office” is a four-door Chevy Impala he uses to visit employers across West Texas, helping them make their workplaces safer. Larry leans on his field experience to deliver lessons that hit home with his audience. Take a recent visit to an oil well near Lubbock, for example.

After putting on his hard hat, boots, goggles and fire-retardant clothing, Larry reviewed and signed the job safety analysis with the foreman of a four-man crew employed by Standard Energy. He then launched into a story about an accident he heard about at another company.

“The derrick man had unhooked his lanyard so he could sit on the monkey board and eat his lunch,” explained Larry. “Afterward, he forgot to reconnect the lanyard. He fell 65 feet and suffered multiple injuries. Who was responsible for that accident?”

Of course, we are all accountable for our own safety on the job site. Without missing a beat, however, the foreman answered that the operator was partially to blame, as well. He should have checked to make sure his co-worker reconnected the lanyard.

“Excellent response,” said Larry. “Call it safety culture, behavior-based safety or whatever other buzz term you want. It comes down to y’all watching each other’s backs out here.”

No need for translation. Larry is talking about accountability.

In companies that have strong accountability, employees understand that they are not only responsible for their own safety but also for their co-workers’ safety. The common goal is for everyone to go home safely at the end of the day.

How’s that for a synergistic partnership?

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Standard Energy in Lubbock has built a strong culture of safety accountability. Case in point: The company’s employees make sure everyone who visits the job site, including technical writers who have never donned a hard hat, wears the required personal protective equipment.

Like anything worth striving for, accountability doesn’t take root overnight. Before it can embed itself into a company’s culture, management has to make it clear that safety is a core business process. In other words, safety has to be a value, not a priority.

“Priorities change,” explained Larry, “but values are constant. They never get compromised in the name of production.”

Larry’s experience has taught him that accountability is a cornerstone of any successful safety program. Accountability inspires employees to take ownership of the program. It facilitates continuous improvement to meet changing work conditions. Whether you spend your days in an office or the oil patch, accountability saves lives.

A note about this post
I recently had the opportunity to spend two days riding along with Larry Homen, a senior safety services consultant at Texas Mutual. Our travels took us to a construction site, an oil well, a power line job and multiple other job sites in and around Lubbock. I learned a lot from Larry, and I pared it down to three core principles that I shared on this blog. Don’t miss the previous installments in this series, and stay tuned for more tales from the field:

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

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