"Once we got under people's helmets, something started to happen"

"That HSEQ thing is probably here to stay." That was the words, in 2005, when Danbor's CEO pulled Per Hjort Lorenzen aside to ask if he would like the task of getting the safety culture in the company in order.

"At that time, there was regularly something to look for when the Norwegian Working Environment Authority and the environmental authorities stopped by. It had to be tightened up. The boss said he needed a police officer: 'It is okay if people tense up when they see you', as he put it," says Per Hjort Lorenzen.

He agreed to the assignment on the condition that he should neither be a police officer nor spend his time tinkering with procedures.

Per Hjort Lorenzen is now retiring after 17 years at the head of security in NorSea. Because it turned out that the boss was right: that HSEQ was not only here to stay, it was also here to change and improve the energy sector.

PPE and mandates only do so much

He started by customizing a management system, which was a somewhat unsightly stack of papers, and changing it from hard copy to digital. Then followed the time with equipment and orders:

"We don't have to go back very far before safety was about bans, helmets, shoes and gloves. Things that were supposed to prevent you from beating yourself up too badly when something went wrong. Procedures, restrictions and barriers followed, which did a lot to prevent accidents and limit the damage if they did occur," says Per Hjort Lorenzen:

“But signs, procedures and safety shoes only went so far. The real change came with the understanding that safety is primarily about mindset and awareness," says Per Hjort Lorenzen.

Get it under the helmet

Both NorSea and NorSea's customers had the ambition to do even better in terms of safety.

"There was support and ambition from the top. Jesper Høj-Hansen talked about becoming world class in terms of safety, and our customers backed it up. But you can't just decide something like that. We had run God knows how many safety campaigns, but – we kept having incidents. Not many, but not a few either," says Per Hjort Lorenzen.

For him, a security seminar in Germany was an eye-opener. Here, the topic was to move safety to the last bit – not with more helmets and orders, but with culture.

"When we first got under people's helmets, something started to happen," says Per Hjort Lorenzen.

Strong culture

For him, co-ownership is essential.

"Safety culture is largely about the people wanting it, understanding it and owning it. After all, I can't run around with a raised index finger and keep an eye on you, that doesn't give you security. You must build a culture where we are all safety ambassadors in every job we do," he says.

In recent years, NorSea Denmark has received recognition from both customers and agencies for being a safe workplace. In the past 11 years, there has been only one incident on the base which cost a sick leave.

“I think we have achieved a fantastic amount. For me, it is also a point that we have not reached our goal by building an HSEQ department with lots of employees. Because safety is not about having more supervisors, but about getting into people's heads and making sure they understand why we do what we do. We have built the strong culture," says Per Hjort Lorenzen.