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Vol. 12, No. 3 Week of January 21, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

KUPARUK ANNIVERSARY: Kuparuk considered for VPP star

Field will be largest upstream facility to receive OSHA classification for occupational safety, health

Kristen Nelson

Petroleum News

As a result of its safety program, Kuparuk is being evaluated for the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program.

The field was recommended for a “star” rating going in, rather than “merit” with an opportunity to improve to star.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor’s Voluntary Protection Programs, VPP, “promote effective worksite-based safety and health,” OSHA says on its Web site.

“In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system,” OSHA said.

VPP is OSHA’s “official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health,” OSHA said.

Preliminary assessment in 2005

Van Lineberger, ConocoPhillips’ greater Kuparuk operations manager, said the company “had a preliminary assessment in December of 2005 in which we were visited by some consultants from OSHA to determine if we’d be a good candidate for this certification.”

ConocoPhillips “wanted to approach this field-wide. Most other operations qualify facility by facility,” Lineberger said.

“Our concern with that approach was this is such a huge cultural thing for us and we didn’t want to erect any barriers between our facilities. We didn’t want to increase the complexity for our contractors who work from facility to facility.”

After that 2005 preliminary assessment, OSHA supported the field-wide application.

The certification audit in August “went very well,” he said.

“The auditors told us that they were going to recommend us for ‘star’ status. This demonstrates the great relationship between employees and the company and our ability to work together on these workplace safety issues.”

Lineberger said they heard comments from the OSHA inspectors that included “best ever” and “best we’ve seen.”

OSHA will forward its recommendation to the Department of Labor and the department takes that forward to the governor.

“We’re hoping that within a matter of weeks, we’ll learn that that formal recognition has been approved.”

Lineberger said he understands Kuparuk would be the largest upstream facility to apply for and receive star status.

“It’s a neat external assessment that demonstrates that we are on the right path,” he said.

Kuparuk recommended for star

An OSHA team did a Kuparuk site visit in August.

“And we know that their recommendation is for star certification,” said Paul Dubuisson, ConocoPhillips Alaska’s North Slope operations manager.

Starting with the preliminary assessment, the process took less than a year, he said.

“And typically what happens is an operation the size of Kuparuk would be split up into what would be more manageable units and there might be four, or six at Kuparuk.

“And what we decided to do was to certify the entire field because we wanted to have consistency in our whole safety approach and we wanted to recognize the efforts of everyone there and not just individual areas.”

The OSHA folks were a little concerned that going for certification of the entire field may be too much, Dubuisson said. But after a three-day site visit, “they were unanimous that it was an excellent facility and it was the right way to go about it in terms of certifying the entire field.”

The number one thing, Dubuisson said, “is that everybody goes home safely.”

“But it is nice to get the external recognition of the amount of effort that folks up there put into the program.”

Kuparuk will be the largest site within Alaska and the largest upstream unit in the United States to get the certification, he said.

Companies generally move up to star rating

When companies apply for the OSHA VPP, “they are often categorized as merit … and over the next two, three years you work on improving your programs and your culture and then you reach star,” which is the highest rating, said Ken Donajkowski, ConocoPhillips Alaska’s vice president of health, safety and environment.

Kuparuk started out reaching for star rating, and wasn’t afraid to say so, said Donajkowski, relating an incident that occurred when the OSHA reviewers were on their way to Kuparuk for their on-site visit in August. One of them pulled a flyer out of the seat pocket in the charter plane and the flyer said something to the effect of Kuparuk — reaching for star.

The reviewer looked at the ConocoPhillips health, safety and environment director in the seat next to him and said, “Reaching for star — most companies are glad to get merit and achieve star in a couple of years.”

“We’re that good,” the HSE director responded.

“Well, we’ll just see about that,” the OSHA reviewer said.

Donajkowski wasn’t at Kuparuk for the review — and hadn’t yet heard about the incident on the plane — when he called Paul Dubuisson at the end of the first day to see how it was going. Dubuisson said it was going pretty good, but also said the reviewers were going into great detail on the programs.

After Donajkowski heard the story about the incident on the plane he could understand why the reviewers were being so thorough.

Came the last day of the review, with about 35 people from the field at the closing meeting and up stands the reviewer who saw the flyer on the plane.

He told the group that his summary statement to the team leader was “wow.”

“He was that impressed,” Donajkowski said. It’s not typical for a company to get star going in, he said. And “here’s a guy who just feels like the gauntlet had been thrown down” and was out to see that Kuparuk was as good as it advertised.

The OSHA team leader said at the closing meeting that she was glad they had looked at the whole field, not individual facilities, because “it was apparent that the safety culture at CPF-1 was the same at CPF-2, at CPF-3, and the engagement of the contractor community was also another thing that just stood out for them.”

“They saw a consistency; and the engagement of the contractors,” she said.

Other facilities with VPP certification

Oil and gas facilities in Alaska which have VPP star recognition are: BP Exploration (Alaska)’s Anchorage facility; BP’s gas plants at Prudhoe Bay; ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Beluga River unit on the west side of Cook Inlet; and Peak Oilfield Service Co. at Beluga.

Nationwide VPP star facilities are BP American Production Co.’s South Texas operations center in Beeville, Texas; Chevron’s Painter Reservoir unit in Evanston, Wyo.; Kinder Morgan’s Yates field in Iraan, Texas; the Whitney Canyon Carter Creek facility in Evanston, Wyo.; Koch Hydrocarbon SW LLC in Mont Belvieu, Texas; and the Texaco Maysville facility in Maysville, Okla.

BEAR: behaviors eliminate all risk

One of “the major things that OSHA highlighted in terms of … an outstanding visible effort that they recognized is the behavior-based safety process that the employees refer to as BEAR: behaviors eliminate all risk,” Donajkowski said.

“One of the original offerings was ‘behaviors eliminate every risk,’ but they decided BEAR was probably better than BEER,” he said.

BEAR is an employee safety process. At a recent steering team meeting 62 people attended, “employees, contractors and they cover the spectrum of job functions on the slope.”

Donajkowski said his organization has some safety specialists at Kuparuk, two at each of the processing facilities. “With employees and contractors engaged in this safety observation program, we’ve got an army of resources out there focused on safety,” he said.



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