DONG ENERGY – Bringing down the Lost Time Injury Frequency: it’s not a numbers game…
Certainly there have been huge advances in offshore wind’s safety record, as it emerges from being somewhat of a ‘klondike’ industry in the early days. But there is still room for improvement, Martin Kjaer Mogensen, DONG Energy’s Senior Manager HSE, Centre of Excellence Wind Power, comments as he reflects on DONG Energy’s own Health and Safety developments and latest Lost Time Injury (LTI) figures.
“Here at DONG Energy Wind Power we didn’t start our HSE procedures with a blank sheet of paper. This business unit emerged from DONG Energy’s thermal activities years ago. Therefore a number of procedures were in place and could be developed further to mitigate the specific risks in the offshore wind industry. This includes procedures regarding Personal Protective Equipment, how to make risk assessments, etc.
Essentially the offshore wind industry started off operating with small vessels and a limited number of technicians who worked together and took care of each other.” As the industry matured and the turbines and vessels got bigger, there was more of a need to establish best practices and guidelines, he says. “Nowadays H&S is in our DNA.”
We can always find areas to improve.
And looking back at the LTI rates there is a significant difference. In 2007, the business unit had more than 15 Lost Time Injuries per 1 million working hours. In 2014, the safety performance of the business unit had been improved to a Lost Time Injury Frequency of 2.1. Mr Mogensen is reluctant to describe the Lost Time Injury Frequency as one to be proud of because he says safety standards are a matter of constant vigilance. “It is never a case of saying that now we are as safe as we want to, we can always find areas to improve.”
Lost Time Injury
But he stresses that the nuances not shown in the LTI rates are positive. Not one of the 19 LTIs in 2014 had the potential to become severe incidents resulting in permanent injuries or fatalities, and more than half of the 19 are actually related to mundane activities such as going across a flat area, up and down ladders or stairs, etc.
“While we don’t have specific procedures for these every day activities, we are making people more aware so we can mitigate any risks. It is gratifying that assessing of risks, changing procedures and implementing proper risk controls is having an impact. We have tried to ‘ring fence’ as much as possible and implement best practices in our procedures. Certainly, I think the high-risk activities have been addressed and are being controlled.
“Unfortunately, some people will still cut corners. If they see the shortest route of getting from A to B is going under a suspended load being lifted, sometimes they will choose to take that option even though it is unsafe.”
He also points out that the majority of the 9 million working hours are carried out by contractors. “Historically contractors have contributed negatively to our Lost Time Injury Frequency so the company has worked intensively with contractors to get the message across. We have become better at communicating and being explicit so that if things seem unsafe we would rather the project was delayed than carry on.”
Safety first from the top
The ‘safety first’ message comes directly and assertively from the top of the company, stresses Mr Mogensen. Samuel Leupold became Executive Vice President in DONG Energy Wind Power in 2013 and his appointment has made a very big difference to the safety culture.
“Our EVP has made a fantastic change and put safety at the top of his personal agenda. Everyone has to focus on safety. Maybe there were people who did not take it as seriously as they should. He makes it clear that he doesn’t want to have to tell a loved one of an employee that there has been an accident because of some unsafe actions.”
While the 2.1 LTI rate is ‘quite good’, Samuel wants to challenge the organisation and challenge us, he says. “We are going along fairly well, but he still asks questions about how we can make this even safer.”
There are several initiatives to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding safety. Firstly, all of DONG Energy Wind Power’s employees who work or travel offshore undergo GWO basic safety training.
Interface between contractors
DONG Energy has also introduced the concept of contractor/supplier safety workshops, whereby safety issues are tackled right from the start by getting all of the contractors’ and suppliers’ senior management in to discuss potential problems.
“From the first minute we work with the management and HSE people from all the main suppliers and contractors. Years before we start to actually build the wind farm, we start discussions with the vessel operators, cable supplier, installation companies and so forth, to define interfaces between the companies and how to collaborate on safety. Some of these companies may be fierce competitors in the market, but they must come to an agreement about how to work together to optimise safety on our projects.”
Dedicated safety focus on all projects
DONG Energy Wind Power also initiates a number of other activities to ensure safety focus on all projects and sites. On many construction projects the company carries out ROC (Rehearsal of Concept) drills with contractors and own personnel before work starts. Depending on the tasks, the contractor will bring in a selected number of key employees for the ROC drills, so they can make sure they know the workflow inside out. “We are essentially paying them to be trained in our ways but then they know what to expect. And one downside is that contractors sometimes replace people during the project, but then the experienced people can train the ones who are new to the site.”
He admits that DONG Energy has stopped people working sometimes until the contractor had an acceptable plan to improve safety. “We don’t apologise for intervening. If they don’t have a suitable plan, they risk exposing our company and our people.”
And while contractors depending on the type of contract are free to use their own H&S management system it is compulsory that they use DONG Energy’s incident reporting system, to ensure that incidents are reported, classified and that progress can be monitored and documented.
DONG Energy Wind Power is also taking part in several wider industry initiatives to improve H&S standards such as the G9 Offshore Wind Health and Safety Association.
Mr Mogensen comments that there has been considerable progress as the organisation identifies best practices and describe these in guidelines. “We are getting there. For example, how to work at height or how to operate crew transfer vessels in a safe manner, is being established in Good Practice Guidelines. Of course, we cannot make the turbine installation process or the operation of a wind farm completely free of all risks, we are always relying on people but there is a lot of progress in making the wind industry safer.”
Through the association the operators are also challenging the turbine manufacturers about the safest way of operating and maintaining the turbines and so forth. “Manufacturers are developing even safer machines.”
“The wind farms we build tomorrow will be safer than the ones of yesterday.” Even though the industry is making significant progress, he stresses that awareness needs to improve as the sector goes even further offshore. “The simple fact is it takes longer to get to a hospital if employees are injured – it could potentially take several hours. And every minute counts if there are any injury or health problems.
“In the future we will need to increase focus on fitness to work. Most companies in the offshore wind industry have had to evacuate people for non-work related incidents. We will be looking at ensuring qualified medical competences offshore, so treatment starts earlier in case of injuries or health related incidents.” There also need to be more requirements about fitness to work. “Guys can be strong but they are not necessarily fit. We support fitness and promote it as much as we can – as a starting point for our own employees”
Although DONG Energy Wind Power’s Lost Time Injury Frequency has improved significantly the last years, Mr Mogensen is not yet satisfied. “It is not a number’s game, and as long as there are things we could have done better we must improve our way of working. Having said that, I think we are in a good place regarding the H&S culture now. We have people that have completed much better safety training than they had just a few years ago. We still have some issues with safety awareness – it is not where we need it to be. The industry can be proud of the development we have gone through but there is still no room for complacency!”