Research facilitation and management for Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry

Developing Safety Culture Measurement Tools and Techniques based on Site Audits rather than Questionnaires

Lead PI: Dr. Mark Flemming
Subject Category: Health, Safety and the Environment

Start Date: Sept 2004
End Date: Dec 2006
Institution / Organization: Saint Mary's University

The oil and gas industry increasingly recognizes the importance of cultural aspects of safety management. This is due in part to the findings from investigations into major disasters in process industries (e.g., Texas City fire, and Piper Alpha) and other industries such as nuclear power (e.g., Chernobyl), marine transportation (e.g., Exxon Valdese) and passenger rail transportation (e.g., Ladbrook Grove). Investigations into the causes of these disasters concluded that systems broke down catastrophically, despite complex engineering and technical safeguards, primarily by the action or inaction of the people running the systems.

Although the importance of safety culture has been recognized for nearly 20 years, companies still struggle to create positive safety cultures. One of the barriers to improvement is the absence of objective safety culture indicators. With the support of PRAC, Dr. Mark Fleming of Saint Mary’s University has been able to develop a Safety Culture Audit Tool. The study combined ethnographic techniques and traditional questionnaire surveys to tap into underlying assumptions and develop a set of objective safety culture indicators that preclude the need for an employee perception survey.

In fact, this research project has produced the first validated safety culture audit based on objective indicators. This tool will enable Atlantic Canadian offshore oil and gas companies to efficiently assess their safety culture and identify improvement opportunities as they can consider implementing the indicators that are not currently in place. This research should make a significant contribution to the health and safety of offshore workers working off the East Coast of Canada.


  • Final Report [PDF]

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