As the discussion about the Deepwater Horizon tragedy turns from immediate response to long-term solutions, many Americans are asking how we can continue to develop the oil and natural gas we all need while ensuring the safety of people, communities and the environment.
It’s an important discussion, and it goes to the heart of the oil and gas industry’s role in our economy and society. We know that from our own experience with the Valdez oil spill off the Alaska coast in 1989.
And while the Valdez was a low point in our company’s history, it was also a turning point. After that accident we developed our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS), a rigorous 11-point framework that puts safety at the center of everything we do, and treats safety performance with the same structure, discipline and accountability that we apply to all our operations.
We’ve recently launched a new section on our website to give people a look inside our OIMS system and how it helps ensure the safety and integrity of our global energy operations. Hopefully it can help inform the public debate taking place right now.
As important as OIMS is within ExxonMobil, it can be a tough topic to explain to someone outside the company. Yes, OIMS requires facilities to be properly risk-assessed, designed, built and maintained. Yes, employees — including third-party contractors — must be properly screened and trained. Yes, we must have a high level of emergency preparedness and community awareness. But the underlying driver of OIMS isn’t just the number of safety standards we have, but rather the extent to which they’re embedded into our daily work and culture.
It starts by making our top management directly responsible and accountable for safety. And, OIMS is enforced — and reinforced — by regular assessments performed not only by those employees who have “safety” in their titles, but also by those in the field or in offices around the world.
One of ExxonMobil’s safety experts once explained it like this: “OIMS make sure that what should be done, does get done, and gets done well.” That’s as good an explanation as I’ve ever heard.
Take a look at our website and see for yourself. Also, feel free to send me any questions you might have.