May 14, 2024

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Engaging senior leaders for support and what’s next? Frameworks for HOP engagement and implementation

Ahead of EHS Congress Berlin 2024 on 22-23 May, we ask Diane Chadwick-Jones, former Director of Human Performance at bp, and speaker at this year’s event, to summarise her workshop. Tickets are sold out, but livestreaming can be accessed via 2024 EHS Congress – Berlin | LinkedIn

So, you’ve heard about Human & Organisational Performance (HOP).

You’ve read books, you’re excited about the concepts and principles.

You’ve heard people from other companies talking about how it is improving safety for them.

But you’re thinking: “how do I get senior leader support and when I get it, what are the steps to implementation?”

People are involved in everything an organisation does – whether that’s designing, maintaining, or using equipment and processes, or interacting with each other. However, the workplace is complex and how a task is done on the day can differ from how it is imagined when it is designed or in training.

Using a human performance approach focuses our efforts on finding out what makes tasks difficult, and improving equipment and processes in the workplace to make mistakes less likely.

Engaging senior leaders

It is important to articulate why we would be dissatisfied with the current situation of safety performance in a company. It could be that there is a safety performance plateau or repeat incidents or severe issues arising without any warning. Leaders hate surprises!

Often the lack of safety performance improvement is because the existing processes for identifying and managing risk are looking at what we think should be happening, rather than what actually happens, where there are changes and adaptations to enable the job to be completed. And there are many “good saves” every day, where the front-line workers do successful risk mitigations, which give an illusion that all is well, but in fact, there are problems with equipment, procedures, resources or training.

Explaining to leaders about these difficult-to-see risks and the resulting incidents can be done through case studies and illustrating that there will always be a difference between “work-as-imagined” and “work-as-done”. This gives two key insights:

1. We need to respond supportively when things do not go to plan since we’ll be more likely to find out about the underlying issues that influenced what people did. Leaders want to fix weaknesses systematically and not be constantly reacting.

What does this look like? Instead of saying, “Who is accountable, who will we discipline?”; we say. “We have good people working for us, they must have been in a difficult situation, how can I help?”. This approach unlocks the ability to see the multiple influencing factors that led to the incident, and what made sense to the front line at the time, leading to the prevention of similar incidents in the future.

2. We need to update our culture and processes to specifically focus on the reality of work.

What does this look like?

A. Culture: there are some significant shifts in what leaders say and the questions that they ask.

who is accountable for the incident? what were the many underlying contributing factors to the incident?
“care” means getting the front line to try harder “care” means that leaders understand what is getting in the way of safety
follow the rules or you’ll be punished follow the rules and if you can’t, speak up
what are the risks? what makes the work difficult?

For examples see bp’s Safety Leadership Principles on page 7 of the 2023 Sustainability Report:

  • We genuinely care about each other
  • We will not compromise our focus on safety
  • We encourage and recognize speak up
  • We understand how work actually happens
  • We learn why mistakes occur and respond supportively

and IOGP Report 453, Safety Leadership in Practice: A guide for managers

B. Safety conversations: these are a popular tool and sometimes focus on asking people to follow the rules. It is easy to update the questions to better understand the workplace conditions that the front line are facing, such as:

  • What makes the work difficult?
  • What kind of issues have happened in the past?
  • What could a new person find confusing about the task step?

There are some easy-to-use videos from the Energy Institute that are short and explanatory:


And I guess you might be wondering, “How can we build skills in the organisation to be able to ask these questions?”  There are some easy-to-use videos from the Energy Institute that are short and explanatory:

There is also a basic foundation two-hour e-learning, for a small fee, from the Energy Institute that is an introduction to the human performance approach:

C. Risk assessment: most risk assessments look at static hazards, and not so much at what could cause people to make a mistake. Including error producing conditions can take us to the next level of risk discovery. Examples of these are: difficult-to-understand procedure steps, multi-tasking, insufficient time to do the task and problems with the equipment interface, labelling, controls or alarms. Have a look at pages 10-11 the Society of Petroleum Engineers “Are You Applying HF HP as per the Industry Guidance” for more information

D. Incident investigations: integrating human factors (the issues in the workplace that influence people) into learning from incidents gives us more understanding of why people did what they did, and directs us towards systemic changes rather than weaker improvements to training or administrative controls. This is well-described in IOGP Report 621, Demystifying Human Factors – building confidence in human factors investigation Demystifying Human Factors: Building confidence in human factors investigation | IOGP Publications library.

E. How we learn from everyday work: identifying risks in what appears to be uneventful work, but in reality, has been the result of successful problem-solving and adaptations is vital to moving to the new area of learning. The IOGP Report 642, Learning from normal work tackles this in detail, providing tools and case studies.

F. The Safety Management System (SMS): numerous companies are integrating this approach in the next update. A useful example is the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) Risk Management Maturity Model (RM3), which has “work-as-done” and a culture of care and speak up as threads running through the entire SMS. And if you’re looking for a strategy framework with priority areas, the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has an excellent document: The OCIMF Human Factors Approach. A framework to materially reduce marine risk.

Good news

In summary, there are plenty of materials available to help progress updates to systems and processes, and your mission is to find senior leaders who are dissatisfied with the status quo, or leaders who wondering “what gives us the next level of safety performance?”

The good news is that companies who are embedding this approach are seeing not only improvements in safety performance to break the safety plateau, but also in efficiency and productivity since workplace weaknesses are found before they become big problems. Get in touch with them, bring their stories into your organisation to give credibility to the changes that you want to make – people are happy to share!

The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!

The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.

Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments