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The Best 5 Things You Can Do to Reduce Death Rates in the Energy Industry Today

image credit: Prospero Events Group
Rauf Fattakh's picture
Managing Director & Co-founder, Prospero Events Group

Helping decision-makers in the European energy industry benchmark best practices by organizing peer-to-peer conferences since 2007.

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  • Apr 15, 2021

More than 80 people per terawatt-hour (TWh) die from accidents or air pollution in the energy industry! Companies are out there for profit. They invest in safety after experiencing the costs of a major incident. But how can HSE managers shape safer working environments for workers amid digitalization and the pandemic?


HSE manager's top priorities evolved over for the past 30 years in the following chronological order:

  1. Technical (30 years ago)
  2. Behavioral (20 years ago)
  3. Communication (10 years ago)
  4. Technological (today)

Assuring the safety of workers is teamwork between HSE, operations, and engineering in the energy industry.

First, you need to identify high-risk (red level) activity. Then the team focuses on eliminating the risk. If elimination is not possible, then mitigate the risk by changing processes or putting engineering controls to contain it.

Digitalization will connect your employees, increase compliance, enable real-time monitoring.

Preventive safety solutions protect and take pre-emptive actions before an incident occurs thanks to data analytics and sensors.

For example, safety in the coal sector improved thanks to digitalization significantly. It is vital because the coal sector is the most hazardous. Automation, robotic mining and remote mining, mine modeling, simulations, GPS have become a real lifesaver for many coal miners.

"Contrary to its negative reputation, nuclear power saved lives by replacing fossil fuels. It is surprising to most of the population because many have a negative picture of nuclear energy from two major disasters: Fukushima and Chernobyl."


Connected workers wearing sensors can be located and monitored their biophysical and atmospheric conditions in real-time. It is a revolution in safety. So when a worker enters a high-risk area, the equipment can switch to safe mode.

Remote Work

The pandemic forced energy companies to think out of the box to maintain operations while assuring workforce safety. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Risk assessments were done traditionally face-to-face or on-site.  But inspections or troubleshooting site visits during the pandemic became problematic.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality helmets benefit workers' safety and asset protection during the pandemic. Especially AR helps to visualize underground infrastructure and networks.

The emergence of drones in the maintenance of energy assets reduces unsafe manhours.


Digital technologies are developing fast. It is difficult for in-house HSE managers to keep up with the latest trends.

Different people need different solutions. It would help if you adapted solutions for each individual because every human might have distinct differences physiologically. Ultimately you want to provide the safest and most comfortable way of work. So, it would be best if you adapted the equipment for individual comfort. For example, different workers have different sensitivities to noise.

Thus some energy companies prefer to pay for safety per day or per worker in the operations. They are ready to buy Safety-as-a-Service instead of owning the safety solutions. It will help make safety investments more predictable by turning capital expenses (CAPEX) into operational expenses (OPEX). It will save time on upgrading systems, adjusting the equipment for individuals while reducing maintenance costs.


Human behavior creates risks because it can be unpredictable. Therefore advanced technologies should be coupled with good training to minimize human factors in safety measures.

Having the best technologies is excellent, but it can be offset if you don't support it by safety culture.

Reducing deadly or near-miss incidents starts with culture.

Often it is preferable to enhance humans instead of replacing them with bots. Therefore automation is not always the best solution.

As an HSE manager, you can create an internal network to bring together safety-concerned leaders and safety champions among employees who lead the way by adopting the new technologies and methods at an early stage.

If you are tired of being perceived as a ''policeman'' then those safety champions will help you make safety compliance ''sexy''.

Safety became mainstream during the pandemic. Because worker's safety became a prerequisite to operate energy assets amid a public health emergency globally. The perception of safety changed fundamentally.

Also, COVID-19 changed the way safety and technical training was provided. It became apparent that you can train staff via webinars/video conference online at the same quality while saving time and money on traveling and gathering all trainees at one location. Safety webinars will stay permanent.


Dirty energy is significantly deadlier than clean energy.

Thirty-two people die in the brown coal sector comparing when practically no one dies in wind energy.

Contrary to its negative reputation, nuclear power saved lives by replacing fossil fuels. It is surprising to most of the population because many have a negative picture of nuclear energy from two major disasters: Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The transition from coal and oil & gas towards renewable and nuclear energy will reduce fatalities in the energy industry.

External Networks

Digital maturity and the pandemic in the last 12 months created a unique fusion of factors to take HSE to the next level. In the abundance of technologies, solutions, and concepts, you want to know the best practices that work. So it would be best if you created external networks to learn from your peers and promote new safety standards.


If your board or CEO thinks investment in safety is expensive. Well, then try an accident! Go and tell your investors, customers, or regulators that safety is expensive. Mistakes may cost more than dollars.


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