JESI CEO, Joe Hoolahan and APLNG CEO, Page Maxson
Page Maxson: I would say the challenge that comes, as folks will know, is maintaining a good safety culture is a continuous effort and hard work. And when you have changes to your organization like goes on during those periods of time, maintaining that culture and managing the change of personnel in your leadership structure, and up and down your organization, that’s what we find is the very difficult part of managing through one of these cycles. In fact, it’s difficult all the time to maintain that focus and the continued view of safety at the forefront.
Joe Hoolahan: I know one of your great passions is innovation. And I was hoping there was something different. Has there been any key, essential examples that you can give that have come to the forefront with that, innovation in the business?
Page Maxson: Well it’s extensive as everybody knows. I might just point out in the examples, I actually talk a little bit about how I think innovation effects the safety scene. And one of the things that, and everybody will know this, when things get difficult, when you’re having trouble getting something to work… say you’re at home doing a Saturday afternoon project and things aren’t going well. You’re likely to start departing from plans, getting a bit frustrated, and that’s often when you hurt yourself or somebody gets hurt. Over the recent years we’ve become much more sensitive to the fact that making people’s work easier, making people’s work smoother and less effort, is one of the single most important things we can do for safety in addition to engaging morale. All of us around our ownership of safety. It seems like a no brainer because we’ve always known that people do get hurt when things aren’t going well, that correlation. But we really hadn’t focused on systematically how do you get out ahead. We tend to do it again in the rearview mirror. Somebodies gotten hurt, we do an investigate, and then we figure out why that was going wrong and then we sort of solve it after the fact. So just like the rest of my business innovation makes things easier. So if people can spend less time doing whatever it might be, maybe it’s journey management, maybe it takes us time to do that, maybe it’s less driving to get to places, what have you, if we could remove all those hurdles people have to go over then the essential part of the work gets easier and safer. Obviously there are costs. They all go together.
Joe Hoolahan: Certainly. Last month I heard Shane Webcke talk about Safer Together, or Work October Safe Month and talked about the horrific story of his father not coming home from work in the city at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and the impact that had ongoing. And his own family talks about now the importance of safety every day. You can’t get away from it.
Page Maxson: No you can’t. We all live and work within organizations and basically friends and family. If you’ve been impacted by one of those events, it stays with you forever, but it’s also not very hard to mention that, so if you’ve been fortunate to haven’t you certainly envision that. It is first and foremost in everything that we do, for that reason. But I would wrap that back around. Innovation is making everything we do easier and that’s a key moving forward.
Joe Hoolahan: We’re very happy to hear you’ve innovated. Some examples that you can share with us about what has been made easier with innovations that have changed how we do things today?
Page Maxson: There are a number. Like I said journey management is an easy example. It comes to mind straight away as we’re sitting here. From what I’d say our industry is a little bit slower than a lot of others. Not for lack of will but because of the intensive engineering aspect and equipment, as opposed to just process. But we’re getting there and so you see advances in drone research. We see advances… some of the neat stuff we see are better software tools for managing and executing projects. So the better plan you work the less likely it is you have to realize halfway through that you don’t have something you need, a tool or a piece, which then puts time pressure on the team and increases mistakes.
Joe Hoolahan: How important… and I know one of your favorite simplest things you’ve shared with me in the past is your deck of cards, about having a safety conversation. Maybe talk about how we approached that conversation as well.
Page Maxson: That’s actually a good point. We use a lot of tools to foster engagement. The key point I would make is that when it comes to safety we’re never in an innovative way that direct interaction, because safety is about humans and our behavior and what we do and whether it’s process safety or making sure that things stay in the pipe, that’s still dependent upon how our humans process and decisions we make. So safety engagement is paramount. But a good example of how technology may help that… we’re Safer Together here in Queensland and there are a lot of efforts underway. One of the things we developed is a safety cultural survey through that joint effort that can be taken on anybody’s personal device. So it’s open platform. You go out into the field. But instead of sending a survey off to your organization and then having it go away and be interpreted and graphed and analyzed and comes back 60 days later and management looks at it and by the time they get back to it everyone forgets they took it. It doesn’t lie. You or I can go to the field with a group of people and they can sit down in 10 and 15 minutes run through these questions and the results come up live. You can actually have the conversation right there. Built into it is a built more opened, what is one thing you would change? Why is that so important? You can engage with folks right there while you’re doing it and develop improvement and action plans while it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. And that’s really valuable because one you get that direct engagement and can see an outcome. And they actually see a willingness to do something whereas in the old way of doing it, it would be hard to actually connect the two events of what may happen.
Joe Hoolahan: Like you were saying before, it’s looking into the rear vision mirror.
Page Maxson: There really is no substitute for getting out there and walking and talking and being with folks routinely.
Joe Hoolahan: We’ve gone around some of those changes you’ve identified. If you could look into the crystal ball and see what the next big changes are that are coming or what we need to do, where are the things that keep you awake most at night if that’s a fair question? And what are the important things that we really need to focus on?
Page Maxson: Well from a safety standpoint I just worry about when our systems breakdown. Thankfully, we all do much better than we used to 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago. But unfortunately, there are still accidents that you hear about and what have you. So I do worry all the time about when is that day when we miss something. But the most important innovation we’re doing is we have some things called learning teams. A guy named Todd Conklin who does work out there in the industry and has a book that he calls Pre-Accident Investigation, but it’s really about what I talked about earlier which is not waiting for the accident to go investigate but to actually have teams that go out and engage with different parts of the work group and ask, what is difficult for you? If we’re getting ready to come in and do a routine or monthly maintenance deal, what will be a pain in the backside? What will you think about? And actually go out and try to work with the guys on the ground and redesign the process upfront so that it’s easier for them to execute and more robust. I think that’s something that hopefully will spread. We’re still learning how to do that better so it’s on a fairly steep learning curve but if that happens, Conoco does it elsewhere in the world but APLNG is doing it here as well with our operations. They exchange best practices about how you do that. You can imagine that that’s a conversation doesn’t just happen naturally. But again once people start to get the hang of it and see the value of it then people are enthusiastic. Everyone wants to make their job a little bit more hassle free if they could help it.
Joe Hoolahan: Do you see much of that sharing happening? I’d imagine the complexity of business like the one that you’re involved in is pretty complex with many subcontractors and equal people on the ground. How regularly do you think sharing or collaboration is happening?
Page Maxson: You know it varies around the world. It’s changing, thankfully quite a bit. There is a lot more openness than there used to be. There used to be a lot of folks who felt like they had competitive advantages and couldn’t possibly charge totally what they knew. Most of that is gone. Particularly in the arena when it comes to safety. Again, Safer Together the initiative here, we’ve been going almost four years now and early on there were all those concerns raised. Because basically everyone with anything to do with industry, contractors, service companies, operating companies… that’s bearing a lot of benefit as we go forward. People, they visit each other’s locations. They’ll be hosted and go onto other people’s locations, talk to their staff teams, and that works two ways. People get ideas to take back home to their organizations and they often leave behind suggestions and things that could work there. And as that’s been going on, people are getting more and more comfortable. And we’ve seen significant improvement in safety and reduction of injury rates which is mostly at the moment work with behavior safety, because if we went back five years here in Queensland we were in the fourth quartile of global safety performance. There was room for improvement. We are now down probably pretty solidly into the second quartile.
Joe Hoolahan: I remember when you were here in Townsville last year a graph that showed loss time injuries and how important it was to go ahead with it but also taking responsibility and there’s an alarming difference in planning and not planning. If you take safety concerns to your manager and you don’t think it got heard, got acted on or listened to, you take it to the next level. That’s obviously a very un-Australian way to do it sometimes, in hierarchy…
Page Maxson: It’s really something to encourage. ConocoPhillips, my current company, had been for all 25 plus years I’ve been there. There is nothing so urgent and important that we can’t do it safely. Of course different folks have doubt about that. But over time that starts to become accepted. But I would say it’s more important that leadership talk to people rather than rely upon them to come up and talk about it. Because you can get a feel for it if you’re spending enough time out there. When I joined Conoco originally it part of your DuPont. We are very much part of the DuPont safety culture. They’ve got a lot of tools. People will know about that. But the core of what they do is a requirement that their leadership at all levels spends time on the work front every day. You go out by yourself, not with a delegation at a job site. One thing I’ve learned over the years is don’t go around with the job site management in a group of twenty. Go by yourself or with an escort if you’re not familiar with the site and just talk to folks. You’ll pretty quickly get a feel for how things are on that site. One thing I will say here in Australian, just like most of the world, is people are not shy about telling you once you’re there and asking in that type of setting.
Joe Hoolahan: It’d be interesting, a different question I guess, optionally speaking in Australia, do you believe that we still have that ‘she’ll be right attitude’ or is that changing?
Page Maxson: Certainly changing up here with what we’ve been doing with Safer Together. We’ve seen that and a more willingness about engaging to make sure it’s right.
Joe Hoolahan: Alright! I think we’ve got some opportunity for some questions if there is anybody out there. This a great opportunity to do so. Please take a few moments. One of the questions I’ll ask while we wait, is about leadership and safety, everyone is responsible for it. In an organization as big as APLNG, do you delegate or go by department?
Page Maxson: So I think it’s by example. It’s very owning to say everyone is responsible. The day you actually… Or watch out over here we’ve got this activity going on. That’s when you realize that there is some ownership on either side. That’s a key thing. But one thing I’ve always believed is that safety is owned by the line workforce. That’s all the way from the CEO down to the line. It’s not owned by the HSE department. They are your professional coach’s, facilitators, enablers, but they’re not the ones responsible or accountable. It’s everybody from the person with the wrench to the top that’s in that line doing work.
Joe Hoolahan: When you mentioned before about typically the uptake within the resources sector, is that when an issue is brought forward, is there an expectation or KPI’s in regards to if something is critical so it gets dealt with pretty quickly?
Page Maxson: I think there is an openness. It’s just when I say compared to other industries I’m thinking of the high-tech industries and all the ways they’ve completely redefined what they do. We’re still a little bit limited by just the amount of pipe and steel and machines that we have to deal with.
Joe Hoolahan: Any questions coming through? I saw one come through. Within your organization, how do you ensure you’re receiving the best, competent, safety advice? Is there a one or two-person committee…?
Page Maxson: I missed early that agency department doesn’t… they’re not the owners of safety. But they are the enablers of change. A couple of things. We always try to be sure that our HSE professionals aren’t just trying to trained in that side of the world but they’ve actually in their background had line responsibility, team leader, build engineer, supervisor, so that they’re grounded in that sense. But I would say the main thing is seek validation all the time. Like I said my preferred way is walk the ground and hear it direct, but also just don’t accept, question the things you’re getting. Not in a negative way but don’t just take it at face value.
Joe Hoolahan: Question here from Andrew. What are your thoughts on just-culture and the blameless safety environment?
Page Maxson: So that’s a dialogue that’s been going on for at least two decades that I’m aware of. So look, I think you’re often too black and white of a dialogue. I referred to Step Change earlier. I was in the UK during the earlier days of Step Change, spent five years there as part of that journey. But there wasn’t a bigtime where the swung through on the North Sea. That blameless culture was really important. Everyone wants to be safe. Then they went to a just-culture because it sorts of opens up other problems, lack of accountability at whatever level. I tend to think like anything, fairness. It should be fair. There is not a blank check. If somebody willingly violates a procedure that they know about, or repeatedly fails, then there is an appropriate consequence. On the other hand, if somebody is doing their best to do the best they can, following all work procedures, which is most often the case actually when we see something happen, then they shouldn’t bare any consequence. But it is treat them the way you would want to be treated if you were in that circumstance. I don’t know about you guys but I can certainly have a brain-dead moment and screw up or what have you as well.
Joe Hoolahan: We’d like to think that a large percentage of people don’t wake up every morning to say, how am I going to mess up today? Inherently we want people to be safe and give them the tools and resources and culture they can. Great question Andrew. Question from Renee. What are some of the tools that have come from Safer Together?
Page Maxson: There’s several enablers for engagement. We’ve got the cards, the surveys we just rolled out and completed the tool. We’ve got a Jenga tower. You know the old wooden tower where they pull bits out and crashes all down. But they’ve had a mobile laboratory that can take around that demonstrate explosives what the power of an explosive event is, which builds awareness around process safety and asset integrity. They’ve got standards around land transport. So any trucking, driving they’ve aligned around that. Actually there is a whole host of tools. You can actually go to the Safer Together website and that opens up the door into the range of things.
Joe Hoolahan: Do you have a tool to see some of the, I guess, return on that investment.
Page Maxson: We’ve definitely seen an improvement on the industry level. We get lots of stories back… because a lot of our contractors and the construction site work in all industries. We’ve gotten a lot of stories back about people rolling off a construction site and actually standing up and asking, why are we doing stuff this way? It would be done much better and much safer, so effecting the wide-safety atmosphere around Queensland and parts of Australia in that regard. Step Change they’ve been doing for seventeen, eighteen years in the UK but we’re well on our way.
Joe Hoolahan: Question from Ken. Do you see a link between more general project failure i.e. cost or time and the failure in safety performance?
Page Maxson: Yes, we do. If for as long as I could remember people have always said they go together. They’re not mutually exclusive. If you’re good at safety, you’ll get better at cost and execution and vice versa. We still subscribe to that but I think the thing I was talking about, of sitting down and actually saying, how do I make sure the work executive goes smoother and is easier to do things? Sort of proactively gets ahead of that learning curve for both cost and safety. We’ve learned here the same old lesson that if you have to go back and recycle or delay that’s where your cost gets away from you. It’s not in the upfront work and even a bit of Step Change won’t blow it away as nearly as much as that repeat and recycle.
Joe Hoolahan: It’s the time taken at planning in the start and tto get things right.
Page Maxson: Well we’ve got a lot of making sure folks at the work front are involved. Planners tend to go do it in the backdrop, so make it sure there is a spot where they go out and say, how would you do this on this spot on the ground? And make sure that you ask folks for their ideas and we’ve seen some really good things happen on Curtis Island. So they actually went out and asked folks, what would make it easier to do this? For example, the concrete guys said well actually, we custom make… the carpenters make up all these boards and stuff but there is a system out there that if you go get this modular form or reusable thing. They said sure and it actually cut the amount of time and effort they had to do that significantly. Again the exposure is every time you’re building it by hand you’re cutting and nailing, everything else.
Joe Hoolahan: You would quite often hear stories of systems that have been created without the involvement of key stakeholders, which is unfortunately when work arounds happen and the safety has a dramatic effect. Another question from Ron. Does safety together involve the other major LNG operators such as Santos, QGC and Shell, and how often do they meet?
Page Maxson: Yes, it does. Back in about 2011 we started talking about setting up Safer Together and a bit modeled after Step Change in the UK. A key part of that was all of us were part of it, so all of the four companies including Arrow. But we invited in all of the contractor’s industries. So there are four of us but Safer Together has seventy something members now. That’s a crucial aspect. One of the key changes was all of us working together. So there are meetings… the steering body, the leadership body meets four times a year, plus ad-hoc we have two half-day seminars a year. The next one is December 6th. Then there is a series of work groups. I’m on safety and leadership work group which is actually talking about how to foster leadership, and we meet monthly as a group of folks. And we have annual budgets, work programs that get reported back to that steering group or board if you will.
Joe Hoolahan: When you say you’re in the leadership, I take it there are other committees within that group as well?
Page Maxson: Well no that group works purely on how to foster safety leadership at all levels. It’s actually about leadership per say. There is a leadership group that gathers Safer Together’s activities. But there are work groups on asset integrity, land transport, drilling, a whole number of them.
Joe Hoolahan: Very good. Alright. I think we’ve used up our half-hour very well. Some great insights there and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with you and talk about not only safety, but leadership and where you see things happening. And certainly I value the time we get to grab from you occasionally and I’m glad to be able to share it with the people out there interested as well. So thanks for your time.
Page Maxson: Thank you!
Joe Hoolahan: Thank you everyone for coming in.
Page Maxson: Yes. I hope it was of use to some folks.
Joe Hoolahan: Very good. The details will be available online so stay tuned. We’ll get those to you very quickly. Any questions that you may not have had answers, I’m sure if you send them through we will be happy to answer them as well.