Managing safety

Keeping employees and contractors safe is our top priority. We aim to do no harm to people and to have no leaks across our operations. We refer to this as our Goal Zero ambition.

We expect everyone working for Shell to intervene and stop work that may appear unsafe.

We investigate incidents and aim to learn from them, sharing findings to improve safety performance across our industry.

All Shell employees and contractors must meet our safety standards and requirements, including complying with our 12 mandatory Life-Saving Rules. Since their launch in 2009, the rules have helped us make significant progress in preventing serious incidents, including many potential fatalities.

But seven people died while working for Shell in 2019, which is an increase on previous years. We were deeply saddened by the loss of these employees and contractors and are determined to learn from what happened.

Listed below are the fatal incidents that occurred in 2019.

In Nigeria, two contractors died when an oil and gas maintenance vessel they were travelling on capsized in bad weather.

A Shell employee died after falling from height into water while a vessel was being moored at Shell’s Mormon Island facility in the USA.

A Shell employee based at Convent Refinery in the USA was fatally injured in a collision on the road when driving from the airport after his return from a business conference.

A Shell employee and a contractor died during a routine and mandatory test of the lifeboat launch and retrieval capabilities at the Auger tension-leg platform in the US Gulf of Mexico when the lifeboat disconnected from the lifting apparatus at height.

A roll-over incident occurred in Pakistan involving a road tanker which led to one contractor being fatally injured.

Our safety approach

In 2019, the Royal Dutch Shell plc Board and Executive Committee spent considerable time reflecting on the concerning safety performance, measured by the number of fatalities, and what needs to change at Shell to prevent fatalities and all other serious incidents. This included carrying out a full review of Shell’s safety approach, which covered the effectiveness of current preventative tools, such as the Life-Saving Rules and Goal Zero ambition.

Since the early 2000s, we have made progress in improving the safety of our operations. This is largely due to a stronger safety culture guided by our Goal Zero ambition – to achieve no harm and no leaks – and requirements such as the Life-Saving Rules. Of all the fatalities in recent years, the vast majority have no link to a breach of the Life-Saving Rules.

But we have not been able to eliminate all fatal incidents involving Shell employees and contractors.

We are now building on our current approach to safety with a more consistent focus on the way people, culture, equipment, work systems and processes all interact. Many of our fatalities in recent years were down to the complex interaction between these elements.

We aim to understand better the gap between how we anticipate work will be safely carried out and what happens in reality. We continue to work to prevent incidents through maintaining safety barriers and training, but acknowledge that people can make mistakes and processes can fail. We will also focus more on how people can “fail safely”, and on our response in the moment to avoid the risk of a serious injury. This approach is a philosophical change, which we will start to deploy from 2020 onwards for all employees and contractors.

Two employees of the Shell Canada wells team investigate for dangerous gases to ensure they can safely enter a confined space (photo)

In line with one of the Life-Saving Rules, a Shell Canada wells team investigates for dangerous gases to ensure they can safely enter a confined space.

Investigating and learning from incidents

Shell requires incidents to be investigated to understand underlying causes, including the technical, behavioural and organisational reasons. We share learnings and take steps to mitigate future incidents at the site, at the country level and in the wider business. We aim to use findings to improve our standard ways of working in similar activities.

For example, after a complete investigation of a fatality in Appalachia in 2018, we developed learning toolkits for employees and contractors. We held formal conversations about the incident in all main lines of business and produced a video that received more than 10,000 views. These steps helped people consider lessons that could be applied in their workplace.

We are also exploring ways to use data analytics to improve decision-making and deliver more targeted learning to employees in frontline operations.

Personal safety performance

In 2019, following steady improvements in our safety performance over the last decade, the number of injuries per million working hours – the total recordable case frequency (TRCF) – was 0.9, the same as in 2018.

Total recordable case frequency (TRCF)

Injuries per million working hours

Enlarge image Total recordable case frequency (TRCF) – injuries per million working hours: 2010: 1.2; 2011: 1.2; 2012: 1.3; 2013: 1.2; 2014: 1.0; 2015: 0.9; 2016: 1.0; 2017: 0.8; 2018: 0.9; 2019: 0.9 (line chart)

The level of injuries that led to time off work in 2019 also remained flat compared with 2018 at 0.3.

Lost time injury frequency (LTIF)

Injuries per million working hours

Enlarge image Lost time injury frequency (LTIF) – injuries per million working hours: 2010: 0.3; 2011: 0.4; 2012: 0.3; 2013: 0.4; 2014: 0.3; 2015: 0.3; 2016: 0.3; 2017: 0.2; 2018: 0.3; 2019: 0.3 (line chart)

Tragically, seven people lost their lives while working for Shell in 2019. Our fatal accident rate – the number of fatalities per 100 million working hours – increased to 1.3 in 2019 compared with 0.4 in 2018.

For details of Shell’s 2019 safety performance and remuneration outcomes, see the Directors' Remuneration Report in our Annual Report.

Fatal accident rate (FAR)

Fatalities per 100 million working hours

Enlarge image Fatal accident rate (FAR) – fatalities per 100 million working hours: 2010: 1.6; 2011: 1.0; 2012: 1.3; 2013: 0.8; 2014: 0.7; 2015: 1.1; 2016: 0.5; 2017: 0.4; 2018: 0.4; 2019: 1.3 (line chart)