Protecting our Aramco family, others, and our future
Aramco Life delves into our key value of Safety with president and CEO Amin Nasser.
A strong safety culture is critical in the oil and gas industry.
Aramco’s core business — the production, refining and transportation of hydrocarbons — means working with inherent safety risks.
Energy and chemical products need to be handled with extreme care.
While pandemics and digital transformation pose new safety risks, safety is central to our vision of becoming the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals enterprise.
Protecting ourselves and others
What does safety mean to you?
Someone from outside the oil and gas industry once said to me that safety is about business continuity.
I couldn’t disagree more. We are nothing without our people. Nothing is more important than the safety of the Aramco family and our communities.
A critical safety incident is the number one thing I dread. One critical incident or even one fatality is one too many. The majority of our workforce are based in industrial plants and facilities, but whether you are working on an operational site, or in an office, safety is a nonnegotiable priority.
How do you create a safety culture?
What’s critical to success is an open safety culture. A safety culture will only grow in an environment where people are empowered to speak up.
To avoid or prevent hazards, you need to know what’s actually happening on the ground at our facilities, worksites, and workplaces.
Being open and constantly learning are important elements to get us there. A key part of safety excellence is reporting not only the accidents, but also things like near misses.
It’s why we’re constantly making our systems more user-friendly to encourage reporting, moving away from a rigid safety environment to one that promotes timely, accurate reporting and openness in communication. Just as important are education and a strong culture of lessons learned.
Creating a decades-old safety culture
What’s behind Aramco’s safety culture?
In one word — training. We invest a lot in making sure our people are trained well and can step up when it matters.
Safety culture is in our DNA, we live and breathe it. Operating oil and gas facilities carries risks, but our people know how to deal with them, and I am immensely proud of their efforts. Aramco has decades of experience aimed at ensuring the safety of our people, but we must do more. We can never be complacent.
Where is Aramco on its safety journey?
This is a journey that never ends. It’s only getting more complex and demanding as we progress into the future.
We have a long and proud safety record, but the bar keeps getting higher. It’s not just internal risks to monitor and manage, we also have to watch out for external threats and dangers too.
We are known for being the most efficient producer of energy. That wasn’t earned in a day, it took decades of work. Any compromise on safety standards will hurt our reliability, which is one of our major competitive advantages.
What sets Aramco’s safety culture apart from the rest of the world?
We always want to create a far safer, and a more efficient workplace. Safety and efficiency are not mutually exclusive. Aramco is an example to the world that safety and profitability can coexist.
Adapting to a pandemic
How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting Aramco’s safety culture?
This is a very important question given the current rise in cases.
Pandemics are a key risk and we’ve learned a lot from this experience, particularly in infectious disease control management.
These are difficult times as the pandemic continues to keep people separated. But I know it’s also brought people together. I’ve heard so many great stories of friends and colleagues looking out for each other. I have to say that COVID-19 has made us more aware, made us more caring, and also more compassionate during these times.
When the pandemic hit, most of our office-based workers switched to remote work seamlessly. But our core business is the supply of energy and the production of oil, gas, refined products and chemicals, and these can’t be done from home. It meant that thousands of our people who work at sites and facilities in the field had to stay away from their families for extended periods of time. This was a huge and heroic sacrifice but it ensured that Aramco kept going when most of the world stopped.
To keep our people as safe as possible we had to do things differently. We instituted additional precautions, even though many of our standard plant operational safety requirements and procedures already served as preventative measures against the virus. We set a high bar on precautionary measures and a high bar on expectations because we are Aramco.
This is what the current COVID-19 situation demands of us. Everyone, at every level of the company, needs to know exactly what action to take based on the various risk scenarios outlined in our COVID-19 response protocol. The experience of other countries battling mutant strains shows why there is no room for compromise or complacency.
Being separated from families and not doing things normally with friends — like playing sports — can have an emotional impact. But that said, thankfully for video calls, we are actually regularly checking up on our elderly parents and relatives.
Being the optimist that I am, I am confident that as we roll out the vaccine, our lives will gradually return to normal. But for now, we must do whatever it takes to overcome this health crisis and we must do it as one team. By the way, that includes signing up for the vaccine. Please do so if you haven’t already.
Our safety future
How do you maintain safety performance with affiliates and joint venture partners during a time of significant Aramco growth?
Growth is essential to the company’s future success and ambitions. Our global network will continue to expand substantially over the next few decades — both organically and through partnerships as we continue to diversify our portfolio. And we’re very clear that if you want to partner with Aramco, safety and accountability are nonnegotiable.
How will technology change the future of safety?
Significantly. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) has had one of the most profound effects on our industry since the rise of the internal combustion engine.
We now have access to technologies that we could only have dreamed of about a decade ago. Smart cities and plants enabled by IR 4.0 technologies, for example, have the potential to be much safer than conventional cities and plants.
Using these technologies is the reason why our ‘Uthmaniyah and Khurais facilities were recently awarded “Lighthouse” status by the World Economic Forum.
Technology of course, brings new risks like cyberattacks. But I know that if we are as committed to safety in the digital space as we are in the field, then we can manage those risks, while capturing the enormous benefits of a smarter and more data-driven Aramco.