Ahead of the 2018 Op­er­a­tional Ex­cel­lence in En­ergy, Chem­i­cals & Re­sources Sum­mit (Oc­to­ber 2 to 4, Lon­don, UK), OGR’s me­dia part­ners at IQPC in­ter­viewed Karl Si­mons, Health, Safety, Se­cu­rity and Well-be­ing Di­rec­tor at Thames Wa­ter to get his in­sights on ho

Oil and Gas - - FEATURE -

Karl, tell us about your pro­fes­sional back­ground

I be­gan my ca­reer as an elec­tri­cal and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing ap­pren­tice within the Bri­tish Army. I spent thir­teen years tour­ing the world in var­i­ous con­flict and peace­ful sit­u­a­tions and upon leav­ing I moved into the world of health and safety, which is where I wanted to con­tinue pro­tect­ing peo­ple.

I have spent 25 years ded­i­cated to the preser­va­tion of life, work­ing in: gov­ern­ment, con­struc­tion, rail, fa­cil­i­ties man­age­ment, oil, gas, min­er­als and now in the wa­ter in­dus­try.

My cur­rent role in­volves steer­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tional strat­egy around the dis­ci­plines that I look af­ter. I have been at Thames in this role for the past five years and find it ex­tremely en­joy­able. The sheer di­ver­sity of the risk port­fo­lio is what whets my ap­petite as it is a chal­leng­ing in­dus­try be­cause you have all of the wa­ter and waste­water ser­vices to look af­ter, as well as the cus­tomer ser­vice-side.

Thames as a re­tail or­gan­i­sa­tion looks af­ter 15 mil­lion do­mes­tic cus­tomers across the south of Eng­land. These cus­tomers all rely on Thames to pro­vide safe and high-qual­ity clean drink­ing wa­ter. We also have to man­age their waste­water, tak­ing it away and sen­si­bly treat­ing it be­fore putting it back into the land and the rivers, so we also pro­tect the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

You have sup­ported Thames Wa­ter in de­vel­op­ing strate­gies for each dis­ci­pline you have over­seen. Tell us about an ini­tia­tive that you’ve helped im­ple­ment?

Each year, we set out a de­fined set of ini­tia­tives based around stan­dards and be­hav­iours that will re­ally un­der­pin our risk frame­work strat­egy to en­sure that we get the out­comes that we want.

Over the past five years, Thames has been on an amaz­ing jour­ney, one that I deem to be a cul­tural revo­lu­tion. At the out­set, we shifted our vi­sion in a new di­rec­tion to fo­cus on risk elim­i­na­tion in a very dif­fer­ent way, thus preven­tion of work­place ab­sence was then sim­ply a byprod­uct of our ef­fort. This vi­sion cen­tred on the be­lief that any­body off of work as a re­sult of in­jury or ill­ness was un­ac­cept­able. Sim­ply put, all I asked of each team leader was to put their peo­ple to work safely ev­ery day and send them home safe and well at night, and in do­ing this you have achieved our vi­sion.

This be­comes some­thing that’s be­liev­able to an or­gan­i­sa­tion and to in­di­vid­u­als work­ing within it. It is not some­thing we are striv­ing to get to, but for us it’s a daily oc­cur­rence for our man­agers and teams

You talked about men­tal ill­ness a lot in your ses­sion at last year’s Op­er­a­tional Ex­cel­lence Sum­mit. Is Thames ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing staff with sup­port in this area?

Ab­so­lutely. I have a very proac­tive Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Hy­giene depart­ment who are out there pro­vid­ing sup­port ser­vices to the thou­sands of peo­ple who work for us, and on our be­half. We have the same phi­los­o­phy around health and well­be­ing as we do for safety. Just as in­jury is un­ac­cept­able and drives our safety per­for­mance and con­trol mea­sures, so too, is ill­ness and drives our health pro­gramme. Work-in­duced ill­ness comes with ex­ec­u­tive-level re­views, as does work-in­duced in­jury, and although that is an out­come of our health and well­be­ing agenda, both on the phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal side, it sets the tone to­wards the ef­fort we ex­pect to put in to pre­vent ill­ness de­rived from work ac­tiv­i­ties. We have done a lot of work on men­tal health over the last five years that has led to a 65 per­cent re­duc­tion in cases of work-re­lated stress, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion which leads to peo­ple be­ing off. Although I am en­cour­aged by this re­duc­tion, ev­ery sin­gle case we have where we have con­trib­uted to some­one go­ing off ab­sent is grossly un­ac­cept­able to me, which fu­els my ap­petite to do more. It is how­ever re­ally en­cour­ag­ing for the or­gan­i­sa­tion to see those out­comes fol­low­ing all of the in­puts from in­vest­ment, time and en­ergy from the peo­ple ded­i­cated to pre-serv­ing peo­ple’s lives whilst at work.

What ini­tia­tives do you run to help em­ploy­ees with men­tal ill­ness?

We have a se­ries of ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes, in­clud­ing our Mind Fit pro­gramme which in­volved men­tal health train­ing for first aiders and aware­ness train­ing for all. From a phys­i­cal per­spec­tive, we also have per­sonal med­i­cal as­sess­ments. Re­gard­less of whether you are a re­cep­tion­ist, a plant worker or the chief ex­ec­u­tive, ev­ery­body gets ac­cess to an an­nual per­sonal med­i­cal as­sess­ment that not only in­volves test­ing for things like choles­terol, blood pres­sure, sugar lev­els and lung func­tion, but also tests for prostate and bowel can­cers and thy­roid ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Over the four years that this has been in place we have had thir­teen con­firmed cases of can­cer iden­ti­fied, but these are the ones where peo­ple have let me know about their con­di­tion, I do know we have over 100 ab­nor­mal cases ac­tu­ally iden­ti­fied, but as the med­i­cals are con­fi­den­tial to each in­di­vid­ual it’s up to them whether they let us know. Whilst ob­vi­ously re­ally tragic, we have iden­ti­fied this through the med­i­cal as­sess­ment early with­out any of the signs or symp­toms, which means those peo­ple are now get­ting treat­ment well in ad­vance of what they nor­mally would.

You have a breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries, from oil, gas, min­er­als, con­struc­tion and wa­ter. Are there com­mon chal­lenges that you have iden­ti­fied?

The prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of risk man­age­ment is the same re­gard­less of the in­dus­try you are in. All of these in­dus­tries in­volve gen­eral risks such as work­ing at height, and slips, trips and falls. The chal­lenge is in un­der­stand­ing the com­plex di­verse na­ture of what is dif­fer­ent. The com­mon risks will al­ways be there and they will al­ways con­sume man­age­ment time and at­ten­tion, but if you can iden­tify what the po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic risks are, that are unique to that spe­cific in­dus­try, then you can re­ally un­der­stand how you can bet­ter pro­tect as­sets, em­ploy­ees and the mem­bers of the pub­lic that come into con­tact with your ser­vices.

In the past you have talked about not over­shad­ow­ing the like­li­hood of high­sever­ity risks. How do you man­age that for a com­pany with over 7,000 sites?

We have hun­dreds of treat­ment works, thou­sands of pump­ing sta­tions and more­over, an abun­dance of risk ar­eas

across our port­fo­lio. The frame­work that we have in place al­lows us to have a high de­gree of vis­i­bil­ity of all of those risk ar­eas.

In­spec­tion is the cat­a­lyst for all in­vest­ment and main­te­nance within any or­gan­i­sa­tion. If you can have vis­i­bil­ity over your in­spec­tion pro­gramme that will lead to greater con­fi­dence at all lev­els that your as­sets are be­ing looked at. If your as­sets are be­ing looked at then the out­comes of that in­spec­tion will be ac­tions gen­er­ated.

This will then drive your main­te­nance pro­gramme, your de­fect res­o­lu­tion, and ul­ti­mately set you up for what needs to be in­vested in and in­spected for the com­ing year on a risk-based ap­proach.

How do you cat­e­gorise those risks?

We have two types of risks within our frame­work. Firstly, risks which con­sume man­age­ment time and at­ten­tion. These are what we call our dy­namic risks. Se­condly we have cat­a­strophic risks which are the low prob­a­bil­ity, high­sever­ity risks which can lead to mul­ti­ple fa­tal­i­ties, rep­u­ta­tional dam­age and loss of in­vestor con­fi­dence. Those risks are so im­por­tant that they swamp any com­pany risk dash­board so you have to treat them with ex­treme care.

How do you iden­tify risks?

We iden­tify them from past knowl­edge. As a 400-year-old com­pany all of the knowl­edge of the busi­ness is con­tained within the busi­ness. This meant that when I first joined Thames Wa­ter five years ago it was very easy to iden­tify risk from my en­gage­ment with em­ploy­ees within dif­fer­ent busi­ness units.

I soon dis­cov­ered what keeps them awake at night and their crit­i­cal risk ar­eas that needed as­sess­ment with a health and safety head on. Of­ten the best peo­ple to tell you about the risks in­her­ent with the as­sets you have are the op­er­a­tives who are us­ing and op­er­at­ing and main­tain­ing those as­sets, so con­nec­tion at all lev­els needs to ex­ist. Thames work very hard around our en­gage­ment with our sup­ply chain which is why we have a one team ethos that ev­ery­body dresses in Thames Wa­ter cloth­ing and ev­ery-body drives Thames Wa­ter ve­hi­cles.

We are one team and work hard to make sure our en­gage­ment cas­cades all the way into that sup­ply chain as best as we can each year.

How do you get lead­ers to un­der-stand the link be­tween risk-re­duc­tion and fi­nan­cial per­for­mance?

If you have an or­gan­i­sa­tion where bud­get is driv­ing risk it will lead to a lack of in­vest­ment in your in­fra­struc­ture and your as­sets – so you have to flip it on its head. Each year, pro­gramme own­ers for each risk area tell us how many as­sets they need to in­spect, how many sites they need to look at, the re­quired main­te­nance and the de­fect res­o­lu­tion. That be­comes the cat­a­lyst for the risk dis­cus­sion which will lead to the right bud­get be­ing ap­plied against it. Risk needs to drive bud­get, not bud­get re­strain­ing risk.

What are the core pil­lars of world­class op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence that ex­ec­u­tives should be fo­cused on?

It’s got to be the stan­dards and ex­pec­ta­tions de­fined, com­bined with cul­tural evo­lu­tion. This means un­der­stand­ing your cul­ture and where it sits at that point in time. If you get those two right this will lead to a higher level of re­li­a­bil­ity which in turn is op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence in its def­i­ni­tion

Could you de­scribe the cul­ture at Thames Wa­ter?

Evolv­ing is the best way I can put it. Peo­ple are proud to work for Thames Wa­ter and we have a lot of very pas­sion­ate peo­ple who care an aw­ful lot about the ser­vices they pro­vide and I am in this cat­e­gory.

In un­der­stand­ing the com­plex and di­verse na­ture of the wa­ter and waste­water in­dus­try you learn to un­der­stand its crit­i­cal im­por­tance to the na­tional in­fra­struc­ture, but it is a ser­vice that is of­ten taken for granted. We can only pro­vide the qual­ity of the prod­uct we pro­vide be­cause of the in­put from our pas­sion­ate peo­ple. From a be­havioural per­spec­tive and a val­ues per­spec­tive, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has worked hard in terms of re­flect­ing those val­ues, and I get up ev­ery day and try to do as much as I can to help those en­gage­ment con­ver­sa­tions that help peo­ple feel em­pow­ered.

All of our peo­ple are em­pow­ered to chal­lenge on un­safe acts and con­di­tions with­out fear of reprisal and that high lev­els of chal­lenge within any busi­ness is a true mea­sure of whether you will pre­vent in­juries, ill­ness or sig­nif­i­cant in­ci­dents oc­cur­ring.

We have a se­ries of ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes, in­clud­ing our Mind Fit pro­gramme which in­volved men­tal health train­ing for first aiders and aware­ness train­ing

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