This website uses non-intrusive cookies to improve your user experience. You can visit our cookie privacy page for more information.

Marathon Oil elected safety representatives workshop, 14 – 16 November 2011

Mikey Craig – Transocean/Workforce Involvement Group member


Graham Spencer (Marathon Oil Occupational Health & Safety Co-ordinator), kindly invited a member of the Workforce Involvement Group (WIG) to attend one of the two Marathon Elected Safety Representative Workshops held in Aberdeen throughout November 2011.

The purpose of the WIG visit was to gauge the level of further training that is being provided by Marathon to their Elected Safety Reps and report back to the group with any best practices observed. 

Structure & Participation

The annual 3 day event commenced on 14 November 2011 at the Athol Hotel in Aberdeen and covered a varied programme of meetings, discussion, activities, and safety training workshops. Seventeen reps employed by Marathon and contractor companies were in attendance representing all Brae Field assets.

It was clear that a lot of experience prevails within the group and some have been elected to the SI971 function for many years (one rep had been elected by the workforce for a fifth term). There were also some newly elected reps present and I have to say I observed some good mentoring & guidance being given by the more experienced reps. The reps were supported by a facilitator from W2, 4 company HSSE advisors and an OIM. There was also Top Management participation throughout with the Managing Director (MD) present at key stages over the 3 days.

Day 1

The reps were divided into 3 teams and welcomed by a W2 facilitator before being guided through the event agenda. The theme throughout was set in a 'Crystal Maze' style challenge, where teams could collect crystals over the duration. Crystals collected were transferrable into cash for a charity donation of the team's choice at the culmination of the event. Successes since the group last met were celebrated and a review of progress made by the reps since the last event was presented.

A welcome and words of encouragement was also given by Pete Jones – Marathon Oil MD who held some respect among the reps.

New reps were introduced to Marathons 'Disc' personality profiling.  A safety quiz was held in relation to knowledge on Disc, and teams were presented with a 'Blind Waiter' challenge whereby team members in blindfold were guided through a physical exercise - reliant solely upon the instruction of an elected team leader (without blindfold). This all involved elements of fun with clear learning outcomes, and sowed the seeds of competition between the teams, which would be realised on day 2.

Day 2

Physical activities/workshops were arranged at the BIS Salamis Training Centre on 15th November. These had clear learning outcomes of communication, Teamwork, planning and further understanding of Human Factors. 
The first session in the morning set a series of time challenges over a mini 'assault' type course with 6 separate stages. The 3 groups had to get from A to B collecting 'crystals' along the way. Potential hazards were to be managed accordingly as a team.  However, the natural competitive spirit between the teams, spurned along by the reward of crystals and being deliberately put under constant time pressure by the HSSE advisors resulted in the learning outcome being realised at the end of the exercise.  
With 'reward' in mind and being under perceived time pressures, the teams were deliberately set up to fail. This delivered a clear message to all that, regardless of the amount of experience within a group, certain Human factors will prevail under certain circumstances and every task must be managed with the correct level of planning, risk assessment, and controls in place in order to achieve success.

With this in mind, guidance was given throughout the following session by Graham Spencer, on a new Risk Management system that is soon to be introduced to Marathon operations. The system is broken into chronological key phases of a task, with sub task elements being risk assessed at each stage. Dynamic Risk Assessment is also a key element of the new system together with stopping the job accordingly where required and re-managing the risk. Safety Rep involvement throughout the development process is considered by Marathon to be a factor in any success of the new system and reps are expected to be a key element with the introduction and implementation of the new system to the wider workforce. This is an excellent example of workforce involvement and the company have a vision that this will be the best Risk Assessment process in the North Sea. I found the process easy to use, and effective.

This learning and application of the new process was taken forward into the following exercises, again involving the 6 stage assault course as well as a confined space entry exercise, and also a working at height exercise employing the use of an incomplete scaffold.

The Team leaders were rotated for all tasks and each in turn were required to handover a method and robust risk assessment to another group. Each task was completed in rotation until all had experienced each element of the process, including method/process, hazard identification, risk assessment, handover, and safe execution.  Team Leaders were also assessed and critiqued by a member from another team throughout - here further lessons were learned in terms of human factors and team dynamics in relation to the Disc process. I found this exercise to be very worthwhile and feel I picked up some new learning myself.

In the evening, a formal dinner in a relaxed atmosphere was held with Reps, Marathon Management and relative Marathon Oil external parties.  Most notable for me was the attendance of Teachers from the Holy Family School in Aberdeen, which has a diverse cultural composition of pupils. A video presentation was given of a previous visit to the school by Marathon Reps.  The Reps (supported by Marathon) have developed a long standing relationship in the local community and promote health and safety awareness amongst the school children.

Day 3

The day opened on 16th November with an open session of discussion between reps, and Marathon Management (including contractor Management) throughout the morning.  The room was set up intentionally in a 'SI971 World Cafe' style in order to break down some of the formalities associated with a 'Board Room Table' discussion.
A pre-set agenda of questions were gathered from the Brae Field constituencies and addressed by the relevant managers in attendance. Further questions for general discussion were also put to the entire group and participants were encouraged to swap tables between questions to promote maximum input.
The event culminated in the afternoon with another visit to the Holy Family School in Aberdeen by reps, which I'm afraid I could not make due to offshore commitments.


Workforce Involvement

Marathon Oil values workforce involvement. This is evident in their process utilising the grass roots input throughout the proposed introduction of a new Risk Assessment process.  The SI971 function is promoted and supported by all levels of management.  Reps are happy to be elected into their function and carry out work on behalf of constituents in the field.

Safety Culture

It was clear from the offset that a positive, open and healthy safety culture in terms of both workforce involvement and safety representation exists at Marathon Oil. Reps were encouraged to speak freely with any concerns coming from their constituencies, even when these matters arose out with the allocated session times.  Top Management really listened to the reps and provided answers to any questions in an open manner.  Anything that could not be answered immediately was addressed as soon as was possible. 

Best Practice

A number of best practices and examples to the wider industry are prevalent within Marathon.

WIG Promotion

I felt that all in attendance were interested in the work of WIG and although a formal WIG presentation was not given due to the tight agenda, a number of discussions relating to the work of WIG took place over the 3 days.  Reps were particularly interested in the Group's current drive in relation to developmental training. 

Finally, I would like to thank everyone, the workforce and management at Marathon, for making me feel very welcome. I was actively encouraged to become involved with, and even lead on occasion the workshop activities and discussions that took place.

Marathon teamwork on assault course exercise

Marathon teamwork on assault course exercise

Marathon reps - assault course exercise (it doesnt always go right)

Marathon reps - assault course exercise (it doesn't always go right)

Schoolchildren & Marathon reps

Schoolchildren & Marathon reps


Mikey (second left) & Marathon Reps - Confined Space Exercise

Mikey (second left) & Marathon Reps - Confined Space Exercise

Risk Assessment exercise gets everyone involved

Risk Assessment exercise gets everyone involved

Mikey & Marathon reps in Risk Assessment exercise

Mikey & Marathon reps in Risk Assessment exercise

Updated 2013-02-19