Do Safety Programs Actually Make a Refinery Safer? | RefinerLink

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Do Safety Programs Actually Make a Refinery Safer?

By Steve Pagani

Aug 22, 2016

Defining the proper way to build safety culture in refineries has evolved over the years. Where is your refinery on that curve?


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your refinery has had a safety program or two recently. I’m right?! Am I good or am I good?


Many of the safety programs reward long injury free streaks. Recently OSHA warned employers against reward programs that are tied to injury free performance.


Although I won’t complain about receiving an award, it does seem like rewarding low injury rates doesn’t accomplish much. I can’t imagine anyone actually trying to work safer because they might get a $50 gift card or a cheap hat. If you’re not willing to be safe for yourself and your loved ones, I doubt any kind of reward would change your behavior.


On the flip side, I can see a potential case where someone feels pressure not to report an injury because the rewards for an entire site could be affected by it. It’s not a position I’d want to be in. So overall, I agree with OSHA’s assessment and would say that the downside for these types of rewards is much greater than the upside.


In addition, rewards that recognize positive safety behavior are much more constructive. This way there is no negative consequence at stake and positive behaviors are highlighted for everyone else.



So back to my original question… do safety programs actually make a refinery safer?


If structured the right way, these programs can be an important part in conveying management’s commitment to safety as a priority and also in


maintaining a good safety culture.That being said, these programs alone cannot compensate for poor operating decisions that put the safety of workers at risk.


At the end of the day, the majority of incidents that we all dread are controlled by leadership that’s willing to sacrifice money for the safety and well-being of their people.

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