By | December 5, 2019

As part of Sphera Safety Day, Spherions from Aberdeen, Scotland, decided they needed to get some firsthand knowledge about working in hazardous environments by “walking” in our clients’ shoes.

As it would not be possible for them to actually go offshore, we picked the next best thing: the Petrofac Training Services center in Montrose, Scotland. This purpose-built facility is used to train the people who are working primarily in the Oil & Gas industry, and, by using full-size plant mock-ups, they can simulate the type of events that could potentially occur if, for example, ignited gas releases or spills. They also help train people on how to escape from a potentially smoke-filled accommodation area.

Despite working in software development for several years, most of our staff has not had the opportunity to see, feel and smell the environment that our customers live and work in. As one Spherion said, “I have been working in the development of Permit to Work systems and how to safely isolate equipment, but I have never shut a valve!”

So, to get into the right mindset, the day started with a site-safety briefing followed by a team-building exercise. Then it was down to the serious business of fighting fires. After all the participants were equipped with their personal protective equipment for firefighting, it was out to the fire grounds where two different “experiences” were waiting for them. Team one was shown how to use fire hoses, the correct use of water sprays and then a foam application. This was then followed up with the safe isolation of a gas line feeding a pressurized hydrocarbon fire. To safely isolate the fuel source, the team had to use two water hoses to push the fire back far enough to allow them to access the isolation valve. This required coordinated teamwork and the correct use of the fire hoses to protect them from the heat. Once they had pushed the fire back far enough, they were able to close the isolation valve and extinguish the fire.

The second team was given the scenario of how to carry out a search-and-rescue mission in a smoke-filled, two-level building. They entered at the upper level and worked their way down to the exit door located at the lower level. This exercise taught them how to work together as a team and follow procedures in an unfamiliar situation. The skills they learned here could be useful if they ever have to escape from a smoke-filled house or building.

After the first run of the exercises, the teams traded tasks so they all had the opportunity to experience both situations.

What Did It Mean to Us?

By exposing our staff to the world of our clients, we hope that this helps generate empathy with the clients’ requirements. What appears on a diagram or map looks completely different when it is seen in an industrial environment. For example, you may need to climb ladders up to a walkway to get to the isolation valves. What is it like to fight a real fire where you must maneuver a heavy fire hose through a congested, uneven environment while wearing a breathing apparatus? How do you communicate when you are using the apparatus with a full-face visor while carrying a heavy air bottle?

Safety Day

So what is Sphera Safety Day really all about? Commitment to safety comes in many forms, starting with the individual’s attitude toward risk, understanding what the risks are and what can be done about reducing them. But it is also realizing how the decisions that are made in an office environment regarding the design and implementation of software solutions can have a direct impact on the end user. I was once challenged on this by a university professor who asked: “With the resources you have, how can you make things worse? Because, it is the same resources you have to make things better.”

So hopefully, by giving our staff a small insight into our clients’ world, we will help them make better decisions and continue keeping people safe.

Some Feedback From Fellow Spherions

Really fantastic day for me from a few points of view:

  • Worthwhile exercise that helped raise some personal awareness that can be related back to our home lives.
  • Great to experience the type of environment that many of our clients work in. The level of complexity and risk that surrounds them while they work, I’d loved to have explored this further.
  • It was a great team building day. We had a good spread of the company in attendance, which maybe introduced some communication channels that aren’t widely used.
  • Finally, the guys running the course were fantastic. They were really knowledgeable and chose the right level to introduce us to fire-related safety.

Being in front of the fire and putting out the fire and then going inside a dark, smoky room to find casualties, it’s a great experience to do to it yourself rather than watching videos of people doing it. It’s these experiences that help you understand a glimpse of what kind of work people do in hazardous industries. This experience helped me realize how risky the work is and how many people are putting their life at risk when working in a hazardous environment. So it’s a big responsibly we have as Spherions to make sure everything we do in Sphera Operational Risk Management helps those people go home safe after work.

I thought it was a great day! Something I have never done before and even though the work I do isn’t necessarily linked to offshore, it was really insightful to see how it is for the industry we work with. I feel like it was a great team-building day and forced us all to get out of our comfort zones and become better connected as a team. Especially for me being so new, I got to speak to people I don’t normally speak to.