Keeping Plant Employees Safe

Oil refinery evening.jpg


A global oil and gas refiner has an annual turnaround on their Southern California plant. A turnaround is when the entire plant is taken offline for 24 hours to revamp and reset. Everything.

Turnarounds are very dangerous and loss of life is a possibility at every turn.

The company wanted to insure safe practices so no one was injured.


The plant's employees were all tenured and been through turnarounds before. They understood the risks. However, past turnarounds yielded serious injuries to more than just a few employees. 

Although the company educated employees prior to the event to remind them of the hazards, injuries still occurred. 


It wasn't enough to be aware and knowledgeable, it required acceptance and a willingness to take what many perceived as 'extra' or 'unnecessary' safety steps. 


This would require engaging the plant workers on an emotional level so that their individual adherence to safety standards would impact their coworkers in a positive way.


The company decided to implement two modes during the turnaround. First, the employees earned points according to their job's impact on safety and their ability to successfully maintain safe practices during the turnaround. The point payouts (emotional engagement) were generous for a twenty-four effort; however, they were appropriate given the life-and-death nature of the work.

The second was to post updates via printed posters and digital messages throughout the 24-hour period as individuals successfully completed risky tasks. "Joe Barns and Jennifer Escondido successfully completed cleaning room 1300. Let's give them a hand!" (social proof)


The results were a 100% safe turnaround - the first in the company's modern history. The model became the foundation for each of the six years since this approach was implemented. Also, it has been replicated at other plants with great success.