Environmental Safety is a value that will not be compromised – and this value is rooted in the importance we place on the well-being of our employees, contractors, and communities.
In November 2018, Equitrans Midstream Corporation was launched as one of the largest natural gas gatherers and transmission pipeline operators in the United States – and “E-Train” left the station to begin its journey as a powerful, standalone midstream company.
As part of our transition, we transformed our approach to safety management, building and fostering a proactive safety culture. At Equitrans, the safety of our employees is our number one priority – above all else. A robust safety culture is the foundational element of our Company values and our efforts to be a sustainable business. We live by our conviction that injuries are preventable and that each of us has a responsibility, every day, to create a workplace where Zero Is Possible (ZIP) Today.
ZIP Today is much more than our safety platform. ZIP Today underpins our safety culture and ensures every employee, and contractor, understands our proactive approach to safe behavior in every situation. ZIP Today encompasses our leading safety practices and a higher maturity level than the standard compliance expectations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Traditional OSHA metrics exist as measures of compliance and can lead to a reactive environment focused on punitive responses when an incident occurs. By contrast, our safety management is proactive and based upon positive recognition for observing and reporting potentially serious situations. ZIP Today enables us to anticipate and prevent problems before they occur.
One of the most powerful tools we use to implement ZIP Today is the ISP/OSP program. These two indicators are one component of Equitrans’ evolving commitment to understanding, identifying, and measuring our safety practices:
- Incidents with Serious Potential (ISP): Any event with precursors that can lead to serious injuries, property damage and fatalities
- Observations with Serious Potential (OSP): Observation of an activity with precursors that has the potential to become an ISP
ISPs differ from OSHA record-keeping criteria because ISPs focus on precursors, behaviors, processes, and/or acts, as opposed to focusing on injury outcomes. ISPs can include incidents, near misses, and observations.) To be clear, the ISP/OSP program goes above and beyond – it is an overlay on any and all regulatory requirements mandated by OSHA.
ISP/OSP “precursors” include a wide range of activities we encounter as part of our normal business activities, such as: vehicle operation, earth movement and excavation, mobile equipment use, tree felling, routine maintenance, and any activity involving the recognized hazards of natural gas operations. These precursors could represent potential situations that could result in serious injury or property damages. A simple, everyday life example is distracted driving during vehicle operation. The operating of a vehicle is the precursor, and the act of reading a text message while driving could be deemed the unsafe event or activity. Identifying these precursors is an important part of our proactive ISP and OSP tracking. Our system measures potential risk regardless of outcomes, thereby instilling in our employees the importance of understanding unsafe situations throughout their activities, as opposed to dissecting circumstances only when incidents occur. Following the above example – reading a text message while driving would be deemed an OSP event even if it did not lead to an accident. However, if even a minor accident occurred with no injury (e.g. hitting a guard rail), then the event would be deemed an ISP.
The importance of ISPs and OSPs to our safety management cannot be overstated. The evolution of our safety culture is predicated on our ability to further engrain this approach into our workforce, enabling us to move from systematic to proactive, and ultimately creating inherent safety behaviors across everything we do.
Implementation and Measuring Progress
Implementing the ISP and OSP Program
All employees have a safety and observation application, “Intelex Mobile,” that allows them to quickly share and provide real-time safety observations by easily reporting any observed safe or unsafe situation. Once information is received, an ETRN Safety Coordinator contacts the employee to determine if additional actions are required. The Intelex Mobile information enables ETRN to systematically track and analyze data for trends and preventative measures. This enhancement is an important tool in the continuous improvement and implementation of best practices for our safety culture.
ISPs and OSPs go through a comprehensive determination and due diligence process. When an ISP or OSP occurs, the employee(s) must: 1) pause work and make the situation safe; 2) notify their supervisor and safety coordinator; and 3) the supervisor launches an investigation. The investigation is commensurate with circumstances and potential outcomes, involving the field safety technician and support functions as necessary. The investigation and findings are documented electronically in our central system, Intelex, with weekly and monthly reports made available.
Our director of safety and the director of the related functional area make a preliminary determination to classify the event as an ISP or OSP. Final determination is made by the oversight components built into the process, which includes the following steps:
- Notification – The determination process begins with notification to the direct supervisor and safety coordinator.
- Investigation – The supervisor and safety coordinator open an investigation based on circumstances and potential outcomes, involving the field safety technician and support functions as needed.
- Documentation – Details of the potential incident and subsequent investigation are captured electronically in our Intelex system.
- Preliminary Determination – Our Director of Safety and the Director of the related Functional Area.
- Final Determination – The appropriate safety committee (field, office, construction) and the Executive HSSE Committee makes the final determination about the nature of the incident
- Audit – Our Deputy General Counsel completes an audit to conclude the determination process.
We have witnessed the positive impact of the ISP/OSP program on our safety culture. This is not just about the numbers, data, and reporting – it is about changing behaviors and evolving a safety culture from reactive to proactive, as we strive for operational excellence every day.
Meaningful Performance and Progress
What gets measured, gets managed – and our ISP/OSP metrics are making a powerful difference in the way we operate. As part of our safety commitment, the metrics we track for our ISP and OSP processes are as follows
- ISP “Event” Rate: Incidents with serious potential multiplied by 200,000, divided by number of hours worked
- ISP “Adjusted” Rate: Gross number of ISP events minus weighted ISP Observations (-0.15 for management observations; -0.30 for peer observations)
During 2020, our total safety observations showed a 613% increase year-over-year, which resulted in a total of 163 proactive safety solutions that allowed us to enhance or implement measures to reduce risks and prevent a near miss or incident. Through periodic updates during the year, we will continue to report on our ISP/OSP program and progress.
Our Safety Culture
Accountability and Collaboration at All Levels
Every person at ETRN plays an important role in ensuring safety and adhering to the expectations of ZIP Today and placing safety above all else. Participation from all levels of our workforce – from our front-line to our CEO – is essential to our success and importantly include individuals who are not directly associated with our Health, Safety, Security and Environmental (HSSE) team.
Our ZIP Program has a senior-level Executive Sponsor, who serves as a strategic advisor and conduit to our executive team and our Board of Directors. There are three ZIP Today sub-committees: Office Safety, Field Safety, and Contractor Safety. These committees are led by three ZIP Challengers who manage special safety campaigns, encourage awareness opportunities, and provide recognition opportunities. Each committee meets at least quarterly to discuss best practices, program updates, and ISP/OSPs. Notably, the employees who participate in and lead these committees do not have HSSE as part of their direct job responsibilities, as safety is an element of every employee’s job.
As part of our ISP/OSP program implementation, our Executive HSSE Committee meets monthly to review potential ISPs and OSPs to evaluate the ISP classifications. This committee’s participants include Senior Vice Presidents and their direct reports, as well as our Deputy General Counsel.
Our “C-Suite” HSSE Committee meets quarterly, prior to meetings with our Board of Directors, and participants include our CEO, COO, CFO, CAO, General Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, and Senior Vice Presidents. These meetings involve reviewing ISP/OSP performance, updating any trends in our metrics, discussing risks and strategies, outlining HSSE regulatory matters, and furthering the progression of our proactive safety culture.
Our Board of Directors is highly engaged in our safety activities, performance, and culture. In addition to oversight of our performance during every Board meeting and HSSE Committee meeting, directors of Equitrans have been involved on a more personal level. As one example, a Board member sent hand-written notes to individual employees who demonstrated excellence in their commitment to our safety culture. We are fortunate to have strong and direct engagement from the highest levels of the Company and this engagement is yet another powerful element to demonstrate the high standards of our safety culture.
Through continued communication of our safety priorities, ETRN employees embrace our commitment to safety. Each month our COO delivers a ZIP safety memo with key information on our safety performance, highlights of employees’ safety activities, information about our latest safety campaigns, and encouragement of safety leadership. Many employees choose to step into the spotlight by creating safety-themed videos, which we include in our monthly ZIP safety memo. The videos capture safety in action, highlighting how employees, and their families and friends, integrate safety into their day – at work and at home. This extensive engagement provides a path to the highest level of safety culture ─ employee ownership of safety.
We aim to extend our safety culture beyond the workplace, encouraging employees and their families to focus on safety in their personal lives by providing home safety tips and resources to help employees adopt or improve healthful lifestyles. Throughout the year, our E-Train On-Track Committee launches various health & wellness challenges, such as “Charity Miles” and “Biggest Loser” campaigns. Keeping health & safety at the forefront, E-Train delivered “COVID-19 Care Kits” to all employees’ homes and encouraged home safety by providing employees an opportunity to select a safety item for their use away from work. Through ongoing efforts, we continue to bolster our employee safety recognition program, safety-specific communications, and outreach to contractors.
Adapting to Change During the Pandemic
In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have proactively undertaken a number of companywide measures intended to promote the safety of field and office-based employees and contractors. In early March 2020, we established an Infectious Disease Response Team to manage our pandemic response efforts; implemented a mandatory work-from-home protocol for a significant majority of the Company’s employees (currently scheduled through at least June 1, 2021); and instituted stringent pandemic-related working protocols, including mandatory face coverings, social distancing for field operations where feasible; and implemented self-declaration forms to further protect our workforce. Given the magnitude of our extended workforce, we also shared our Infectious Disease Response Plan with suppliers and contractors to ensure alignment of required working protocols across our operations.
Since implementing our many pandemic protocols, our E-Train employees have not missed a beat in continuing to safely operate our assets and our business. We have taken steps to ensure employees are actively engaged and informed by continually providing communication updates; producing a variety of video messages by our executive team; encouraging team-building events via our several technology platforms; and delivering COVID-19 care packages to employees’ homes. The Company’s Infectious Disease Response Team continues to monitor and assist in implementing mitigation efforts in respect to potential areas of risk for the Company and its stakeholders.
As our safety culture evolves, it takes diligence, conviction, and the willingness to realistically assess what we need to do to continue our proactive approach to safety. Everyone at E-Train is an essential change agent for their role in advancing safety, whether for reporting an unsafe situation, using stop work authority, or noting potential conflicts in a policy. Our transformational journey commands the attention of everyone, every day, from our front-line worker in the field, to office-based employees, to executive leadership, and through to the involvement and oversight of our Board of Directors. Each of these groups are active participants in adopting our culture of ZERO IS POSSIBLE.
Printable PDF file: Safety – Above All Else