ExxonMobil is winning accolades here in the United States and around the world for its safety program, and winning support from employees for its straightforward philosophy about injuries.

By Sandy Smith

Our number one global objective remains clear," insists John P. Noel, manager, Safety, Health and Environment, ExxonMobil Chemical Co. "Make sure everyone remains safe."

The path to that goal will be walked by all employees, he adds. If the goal is to be reached then "all of us [must] care and have concern for each other and to be driven to take action," says Noel.

At ExxonMobil Chemical, safety is a company value, not a priority. It is only through each employee''s commitment, dedication and support that the company can reach its simple, straightforward, global safety goal: "Nobody Gets Hurt.''"

Focusing on the Basics

The commitment of ExxonMobil Chemical to that safety goal "requires that hazards are systematically identified, evaluated and controlled, and that risks from these hazards are managed in such a way that employees, contractors, customers, the public and the environment are protected," says Noel. This commitment also requires compliance with safety, health and environmental laws.

The company continues to focus on the basics that have driven its progress in reducing injuries, including:

  • Full utilization of personal safety plans to define and periodically review individual commitments and deliverables.
  • Continued improvement in hazard recognition and elimination skills and behaviors, including taking immediate personal action.
  • Improving safety, health and environmental management systems (Operations Integrity Management Systems) by focusing on those things that prevent incidents, while reducing the administrative burden.
  • Holding contractors and ExxonMobil employees accountable for improving proactive personnel safety performance.
  • Learning from incidents and sharing best practices within the company

Noel credits part of the company''s success to a "strong and visible management participation in safety processes." He also credits the company''s Safety Excellence Process (SEP) for improving safety, health and environment (SHE) performance.

Behavior-Based Safety

The primary objective of the SEP is to significantly improve safety performance by examining the impact of human factors on safety. The interaction between people, plants, equipment and the way they work "requires a certain harmony to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses," according to materials about the program published by ExxonMobil. The company uses tools from the human factors program to address such issues as repetitive motion, prolonged activity, incorrect body positioning. The use of the SEP by employees at all levels should help eliminate human factor-related causes and the resultant incidents, injuries and illnesses, says Noel.

ExxonMobil expects line management to actively lead and support the process, and its success will be dependent on full participation of employees. The fundamentals of SEP are:

Behavior-Based Safety Observation - A behavior-based safety (BBS) process to observe and interact with people doing work, and address behavior issues identified through analyses of observations.

Human Machine Interface (HMI) - The Exxonmobil Chemical workforce is trained on ergonomic principles. Facilities/equipment issues are identified and addressed through an ongoing process.

Workplace Perceptions - Periodic surveys and/or interviews are conducted to understand the work environment related to safety and issues that influence behavior across the organization.

Risk Assessment - Risk analysis tools are used to identify and address human factors issues associated with facilities, planned tasks/procedures and real-time actions.

Incident Investigation - Incidents are investigated, and individual incidents and common cause analyses include human factors as possible root causes.

A statement from ExxonMobil notes, "Protecting the well-being of our employees is vital to the company and all those who depend on them in so many ways. Our success lies with the strong sense of personal accountability employees feel for the health and safety of others, and continuous improvement of our safety practices."

The company itself put it best in a statement: "Nothing defines the measure of a company more than the value in places on its own people and the measures it takes to ensure their well-being."

Sidebar 1

  • ExxonMobil Chemical
  • Houston, Texas
  • Produces olefins, aromatics, polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene, butyl rubber, elastomers adhesives,fFilms), solvents, alcohols and specialty chemicals
  • Approximately 16,000 employees and 10,000 contractors worldwide at 35 manufacturing locations

Sidebar 2: Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS)

ExxonMobil has 20 occupational safety, health and environment professionals at headquarter offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Since safety and health performance is a line management responsibility and part of every employee''s job, there are over 100 safety, health and environment (SHE) professionals embedded at the manufacturing sites worldwide.

They are responsible, along with all other employees, in implementing the company''s Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS), which provides a structured approach for achieving SHE goals. OIMS addresses the following aspects of SHE performance:

  • Management Leadership, Commitment, and Accountability
  • Risk Assessment and Management
  • Facilities Design and Construction
  • Information / Documentation
  • Product Stewardship
  • Personnel Safety
  • Occupational Health
  • Personnel
  • Training
  • Operations and Maintenance Procedures
  • Work Permits
  • Critical Equipment
  • Mechanical Integrity
  • Environmental Protection
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Operations Interface Management
  • Management of Change
  • Third-Party Services
  • Incident Investigation and Analysis
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Community Awareness
  • Assessment and Improvement