In the oil and gas industry, where workers face hazards on a daily basis—from operating heavy machinery to working around flammable gasses—safety is non-negotiable. In fact, most organizations consider safety metrics to be their top priority, with the goal of reducing injuries and reportable incidents to zero.
But you can’t create a safe work environment by simply providing workers with a list of procedures and precautions. Safety must be embedded throughout every aspect of an organization—commonly referred to as a “safety culture.”
A key way to promote a safety culture is through knowledge management. By implementing a comprehensive knowledge management strategy and platform, you can equip workers with the information they need, when they need it, to embrace and prioritize safety. Below, we explore in detail the intersections of safety culture and knowledge management.
What Is Safety Culture?
Safety culture is a commitment to minimizing incidents and promoting safe operations, but it goes deeper than that. In this type of culture, safety is core to everything the company does; it permeates every part of the organization’s operations, attitudes, actions, and beliefs. A strong safety culture begins with making—and keeping—everyone in the organization aware of safety measures and precautions. It also encourages individuals to take personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others, and it fosters an environment of open communication and collaboration, where employees can confidently report hazards, near misses, and incidents without fear of retribution.
Organizations with a safety culture will keep safety top of mind by, for example, starting every meeting with a “safety moment”—a brief talk about a safety-related topic. Companies that are most successful at generating a safety culture also have complete buy-in from their leadership team. Those executives are committed to consistently talking about safety, implementing safety-oriented initiatives, and recognizing those who take proper precautions to prevent incidents.
What Is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management is the process of identifying, capturing, storing, organizing, disseminating, and delivering information within an organization. Essentially, a knowledge management strategy and platform enable an organization to house the collective knowledge of its employees.
Without knowledge management, employees often have a more difficult time finding and accessing information that’s vital for them to perform their roles. Instead, they either spend their valuable time searching for that information—by, for example, looking through emails or asking co-workers—or they simply make assumptions or decisions without the necessary information.
Where Do Safety Culture and Knowledge Management Intersect?
Knowledge management can play a vital role in creating and maintaining a safety culture within an organization in a variety of ways, including:
The most obvious intersection of safety culture and knowledge management is the general awareness of safety procedures and precautions within an organization. A knowledge management system serves as the centralized, trusted source of company policies and safety standards. When employees have access to this system, they know exactly where to go to find the information they need, rather than spending time searching through emails or asking their peers. This is especially important in the oil and gas industry, as workers are often spread out across many locations or in the field.
Purpose-built knowledge management platforms, like Bloomfire, host a variety of information types, including documents, presentations, audio recordings, videos, and more, so information can be presented in the most effective and efficient way. And organizations can easily update the information within the knowledge base, minimizing the risk of employees referencing outdated or inaccurate safety procedures.
Even the most safety-oriented companies will inevitably experience some incidents. Strategic use of a knowledge management system can help workers avoid repeating mistakes. Company leaders and employees can post “lessons learned,” which detail incidents or near-misses, including the factors that contributed to the situation and what could have been done to prevent it—such as self-checking, concurrent verification, or peer-checking.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to encourage desired behaviors, so it’s important to recognize the employees who regularly exemplify those behaviors. The way you do that will likely vary from organization to organization. For some, it might include gamification (e.g., awarding points or prizes for safe behaviors); for others, it might simply be shout-outs from executives.
In any case, a knowledge base can be instrumental in making those positive examples public and accessible to the rest of your company. Especially for teams that are spread out across many locations, a knowledge base allows workers to access a wide range of positive safety stories, rather than only hear them from their immediate team.
Questions and Answers
Even with all safety policies in one centralized place, it’s likely that your workers—especially new employees—will have questions. A knowledge base with a question-and-answer function enables workers to both submit and answer questions. Over time, this can help you build a repository of searchable FAQs. Employees can then quickly find the answers they need, without spending time searching through documents or asking their peers. This also prevents subject matter experts from repeatedly answering the same questions.
Strategies for Promoting Knowledge Management as Part of Safety Culture
Recognizing that knowledge management can play an important role in creating a safety culture is only the first step. The following strategies can help you promote the use of it among your employees.
- Get executive-level buy-in: The most effective change comes from the top of an organization. Your workers will be more likely to use a knowledge management platform if they see organizational leaders using it. Executives should regularly use the platform to share and add safety information, encourage others to use it, and show overall enthusiasm for the initiative.
- Be thorough in publishing content: A knowledge management solution is only useful if it includes a comprehensive inventory of an organization’s safety procedures and knowledge. If it’s missing important information, workers will start to look elsewhere when they have a safety issue or question—which defeats the purpose of having a centralized knowledge hub in the first place. Companies should take the time to create a knowledge management framework that works for their unique organization and publish all relevant content.
- Solicit and implement employee feedback: Your front-line workers are the ones who regularly experience potential safety hazards and have first-hand experience in implementing policies and procedures. By including employees in the implementation of your knowledge management platform—asking them, for instance, what information needs to be published, what content types are most effective, etc.—they will be more likely to support the initiative and encourage it among other workers.
- Reward knowledge sharing and collaboration: Get your team excited for the knowledge management initiative by using positive reinforcement or contests. For example, you could hold a scavenger hunt within the platform to help employees get familiar with its layout. Or, you could incentivize workers for contributing knowledge to the platform with rewards such as public recognition (in an email or during an all-hands meeting, for instance) or a gift card.
In an industry as large as oil and gas, getting all of your employees on the same page regarding safety can be a challenge. With an effective knowledge management initiative, you can equip employees with convenient access to the most updated information to help them create and prioritize a safety culture. To learn more about how knowledge management can help build a safety culture and how Bloomfire can fit into that initiative, schedule time to talk with our experts.