Safety Cultures: A Case Study from the Oil and Gas Industry

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Program Development
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A Case Study From the Oil & Gas Industry
ulture can mean many things to many people. The word can be used to talk about the fine arts or social competence, as in, “She is certainly a cultured person.” It can describe social structures and practices that appear to be uniquely different, as in, “The Maori culture of New Zealand can be very intimidating to outsiders.” SH&E professionals talk about safety cultures, by which they mean the values, norms and practices of an organization that deal with the safety of its people. These definitions share a common thread, the idea that culture is socially constructed. In other words, members of the culture in question create, define, protect and teach it to new members. Humans cannot operate without cultures. These systems provide roadIN BRIEF maps for their members to know how •This case study discusses to make sense of what is happening in how new training videos were their lives and how to deal with it. Patdeveloped for high-risk, blueton (2002) defines culture as: collar workers in the oil and [T]hat collection of behavior patgas extraction industry. terns and beliefs that constitutes: •NIOSH’s Oil and Gas Injury •standards for deciding what is; Reduction project is focused •standards for deciding how on developing culturally one feels about it; relevant and acceptable mate•standards for deciding what to rials for workers. do about it; •Steps for undertaking an •standards for deciding how to occupational ethnography or go about doing it. (p. 81) work culture study are examCulture has been described as “the ined, as are ideas on why work collective programming of the mind stories matter, and who might be the most effective people to which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from star in training videos. another” (Hofstede, 1997, p. 5). Sim•Tips on creating training ply, culture is “the way we do things videos in the field are offered around here.” as well. An individual can be a member of Elaine T. Cullen, Ph.D., M.B.A., CMSP, has spent nearly 40 years in the field of occupational safety and health research, specializing in underground coal and hard rock mining. Based in Spokane, WA, she worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines’ Spokane Research Lab for 26 years, then for NIOSH, for which she was the lab’s communications chief. After retiring from the federal government, she started Prima Consulting Services and is currently working as an occupational health consultant with NIOSH’s Oil and Gas Injury Prevention program. Cullen’s primary research interests are in developing effective training for high-risk workers, and in the power stories have to teach workplace safety. She is a member of ASSE’s Inland Northwest Chapter and of the Mining and Oil & Gas practice specialties.

Effective Training
By Elaine T. Cullen

C

many different cultures. A person may be a member of a family that has its own rules and traditions; s/he may be a member of a church that provides definite guidance on what constitutes moral behavior; s/he may be an alumnus of a school with well-defined customs; and s/he may work for an organization with established policies and procedures. Each culture differs from the others, with different members, and with rules and standards that govern different elements of a person’s life. All of these cultures share common traits, however. Cultures: •are socially constructed systems; •have developed over time; •are shared by all of the members; •define who is a member and who is not; •provide a social road map on what is acceptable and what is not; •can be difficult to describe but are quite obvious to both members and outsiders. Cultures are important because they control, to a large degree, the actions of everyone inside of them. Arnould and Wallendorf (1994) describe culture as “the cumulative total of learned beliefs, values, and customs that serve to order, guide, and direct the behavior of members . . . [it...
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