Offshore safety might have a link to comfort

HOUSTON — Want to boost safety offshore? Go to the mattresses.

That seems to be part of the answer, according to Dwight Johnston, Shell Oil Co.’s vice president of health, safety and environment.

The company has seen its Gulf injury records decline since it launched a one-year-old program that aims to improve the quality of life (and beds and food) for workers on its offshore facilities.

The initiative involves so-called “Care Councils” at every location offshore, featuring leaders various workforces, including contractors at the facility. The groups meet weekly and talk about how to improve the quality of life offshore, where many workers live for two- and three-week stretches at a time.

“What do you do offshore? You work, you eat, you go to sleep, and every once in a while you watch a movie,” Johnston said, during a presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference. “So you want to make every one of those the best they can possibly be.”

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In some locations, the discussions center around food. But other creature comforts come up too.

“I have sat in on discussions where they talk about beds, mattresses. You think that’s pretty straightforward — well, all mattresses are not created equal,” Johnston said. “If you put a good mattress under a guy that’s already only sleeping six or seven hours a night not only is he going to work better, but he’s going to work safer the next day.”

So that’s what Shell did. Johnston said the company completely swapped out mattresses at several of its platforms in the Gulf. The foam-based replacements — meant to conform to to all body shapes and sizes — are so nice “I’d like to sleep on them,” Johnston joked.

The Care Councils also talk about who should get the first helicopter ride home after a hitch, making sure workers who may have a child’s dance recital or play to hit can get a priority seat.

So far, the early results show “these Care Councils look like they are starting to make a difference,” Johnston said.

The positive results are turning up in the company’s injury data. Shell has gone “four straight months without injuring anyone in our workforce,” Johnston noted.

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