The interesting thing about the OSHA Oil & Gas Safety and Health Conference 2014 – Exploration & Production, held December 2-3 in Houston, is how much of the programming would benefit far more safety and health pros than the sell-out crowd of more than 2,000 oil and gas industry professionals who attended. The event, held every other year, is sponsored by OSHA and the University of Texas at Arlington Division for Enterprise Development. This was the fourth biennial conference.

Behavior-based safety

The two days in Houston were jam-packed with breakout workshop sessions, each 45 minutes. Eleven sessions focused specifically on behavior-based safety, with topics such as “Influencing Culture by Motivating Behavior,” “Complacency in the Workforce,” “Active Listening,” “Sustaining BBS for the Long-Term,” and “BBS: How to Get Your Employees to Buy In.” That last topic was presented by a representative from ConocoPhillips. The first by XTO Energy. Most were delivered by consultants.

Contractor safety

Seven breakout sessions covered contractor safety management and best practices, a significant issue for thousands of employers beyond the oil and gas industry. Most of the subjects here had broad applications, such as “The Value of Safety” and “Are Your Contractors Working Safely?”

Training

Ten breakouts focused on education and training. Several were specific to oil and gas operations. Others were topics worthy of any safety and health conference, such as “Safety Training that Sticks,” presented by former ASSE President Skipper Kendrick, “Capture the Interest of Uninterested People: Facilitating Interactive Safety Training,” presented by a representative of Tarrant County College, “Improving Transfer of Safety Training to Maximize Return on Investment,” and “Strategies for Safety Training… Creating Effective Training for Adults.”

Health and industrial hygiene

The fields of health and industrial hygiene were the subject of 12 breakout sessions. Topics here included sleep deprivation, silica hazards, predicting injuries, infectious diseases, hearing protection, and common pitfalls of injury management.

Leadership

Management leadership and EHS management systems were covered by ten breakouts. Presenters included representatives from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the National Safety Council, and numerous consultants. Again, topics had broad value: leading versus managing in safety, managing to beyond zero, EHS management systems as leading indicators, building leadership soft skills, supervisor safety.

Compliance

OSHA regulatory issues and programs were the subject of eight workshops, and transportation driver safety had nine workshops. Engineering controls and process safety; events and mitigation covered topics ranging from tornado and lightning hazard abatement systems and arc flash hazards and arc mitigation solutions to a holistic approach to barrier integrity and using human performance data to evaluate barrier effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

Several workshop categories did focus exclusively on oil and gas safety and health concerns: well servicing and completions, drilling and well control, and “target topics” such as a NIOSH analysis of fall fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry and safety management in oil and gas exploration and production.

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels and NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard gave addresses at the conference. Keynote speakers were two Army Rangers involved in the Black Hawk Down mission described in a best-selling novel and Hollywood movie; a New York Times best-selling author; and a former astronaut.

More than 150 vendors filled the conference exhibit hall.

The fifth biennial OSHA Oil & Gas Safety and Health Conference will be held in 2016.