Shifting the safety culture at Tarpon Energy Services

Tarpon Energy Services is the gold winner in the oil and gas category for the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.
In 2011, Tarpon Energy Services experienced an unprecedented number of hand injuries, primarily due to cuts. Incident investigations revealed the injuries were mainly a result of employees not wearing the correct (or any) personal protective equipment (PPE), not using the right tool for the job or putting their hands in the line of fire, says Larry Warnock, director of health, safety and environment.  

To address this issue, Tarpon set out to change its safety culture, says John Henry, president and CEO of the Calgary-based oil and gas industry supplier.

“We were condoning unsafe behaviour because we considered it part of the role — you would occasionally cut your hand when you were stripping cable — and so we agreed from now on it was no longer considered part of the job; it was unacceptable,” he says.

Through addressing this issue in meetings, calling out workers who were not being hand-safe and having focused conversations, the safety culture shifted — Tarpon’s structures division saw a 50 per cent reduction in medical aids related to hand injuries.

In December 2011, Tarpon started to outfit its 500 trucks with a new resource management system. Every truck was equipped with an iPad that has specific applications built for Tarpon, including: secure access to safety information; GPS tracking and monitoring; safety ticket tracking; and a working alone application. 

“Trying to maintain paper documents in field trucks that are going to muddy, dusty and remote locations on a daily basis is impossible,” says Henry. “By having this technology, it means that every one of our field employees now has current information at their fingertips.”

All 2,011 employees at Tarpon have a safety commitment section in their performance review. This is to confirm employees understand safety policies and procedures, and to make sure everyone is aligned on the safety goals and objectives, says Warnock.

The Personal Safety Involvement (PSI) program encourages employees to have active and open safety conversations — with managers and co-workers — on how to complete their work safely. 

“The philosophy is very much a mentorship and coaching philosophy when it comes to safety as opposed to a policing and punishment system,” says Henry. “We think that long term, we will be way more effective as a company (that way).”

Tarpon’s 11 dedicated safety professionals are strategically located throughout Alberta.  

“We have located them where our people are located so that they are convenient to our operations,” says Henry. “We have a service mentality with customers but we also have a service mentality within our organization as well.”

When visitors arrive at any Tarpon work site or branch, they receive a safety orientation that explains
the safety rules, hazards, emergency preparedness and required PPE,
says Warnock. 

“It’s very important for us to provide the information that’s required and we treat it like we’re going to a construction site or a field site,” he says. “You need to understand the procedures around it so you feel safe and confident at all times.”