Getting Ahead of the Curve—Front-End Loading HSE in Major Projects

Visualization of the planned LCLNG facilities. Source: Shell Global Solutions International.

Recent data indicate that starting health-, safety-, and environment- (HSE) related activities in line with construction results in poor HSE performance characterized by reaction and recovery. A proactive approach, however, with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract bidders to front-end load HSE strategies will pay dividends. This paper discusses the HSE management strategy known as Getting Ahead of the Curve for the Lake Charles Liquefied Natural Gas (LCLNG) project.

Occupational and Process Safety

Occupational safety, or personal safety, is concerned with keeping all team members safe at all times when working at a project site. It has a strong focus on the mitigation of primary hazards to prevent incidents such as slips, falls, struck-by incidents, and electrocution. Success is achieved by ensuring a world-class working environment in terms of health and safety management while developing a working safety culture.

Process safety differs from occupational safety because it focuses on hazards of greater potential that are the result of lower-frequency incidents and are more likely to result in major accidents such as explosions, fires, and major asset damage. Such incidents could affect a large number of personnel compared with personal-safety incidents, which affect individual workers.

The management of occupational and process safety has similarities and differences, but it is important to understand that the management of one does not ensure the appropriate management of the other.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

The proposed LCLNG project (figure at the top of the article) includes several strategies that sit under the overall project performance management (PPM) approach to drive the delivery of important areas such as quality management and management of the commissioning and startup phases under the Right First Time (RFT) concept.

These strategies are interrelated and support each other in efforts to achieve Goal Zero, the company’s objective of no incidents or leaks. The Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy has been developed by the LCLNG project leadership team to create the right safety culture for the project and deliver exceptional HSE performance and is the project’s primary vehicle to achieve Goal Zero.

The essence of the Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy is for the correct safety culture to be instilled in the workforce from the beginning. This requires personnel to be on-boarded in terms of basic project requirements in order to be in the right mindset to exhibit positive safety behavior.

One way to encourage the right behavior is to implement an initiative that presents a clear career development path to be achieved by becoming more qualified in recognizing safety-management practices and by gaining more experience with these practices. Taking this approach can be recognized by progression and promotion into safety-management roles.

The Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy includes the need to evaluate EPC bids comprehensively against an invitation to tender (ITT) that includes lessons learned from other major capital projects.

The timing of HSE activities and efforts has a critical effect on a project’s safety performance. Waiting until the start of construction is more likely to lead to poor HSE performance. A reactive culture created by a project team seeking to address HSE challenges is more likely to result in poor overall safety performance compared with establishing the right culture from the outset. Taking steps early to embed the correct HSE culture, ensuring that the project is in a proactive mode from the start, is important.

As part of the Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy, HSE key performance indicators (KPIs) will be identified before any ITT is released to bidders and then formally set when a contract is signed. This will happen well before construction work begins so that fully functional HSE management plans covering occupational and process safety management will be in place. This ensures that the EPC contractor is not struggling to keep pace with a rapidly growing workforce and changing activities and scope while keeping the overall risk profile as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

Process safety is another important element of the Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy. Ensuring that the safe design of the facility, as developed during the project’s front-end engineering and design (FEED) stage, is delivered during the execution stage is necessary so major accident risks can be demonstrated to be ALARP. Getting ahead of the curve in process safety is about installing awareness early enough to reveal process safety risks and issues.

A key objective of the project is to maximize the potential of delivering a safe and on-time startup and transfer of a reliable operating facility. This will be achieved by the RFT process, which is based on structurally and systematically identifying and mitigating risks. The RFT process itself has two distinct areas of focus.

The first focus area targets performance levels across a number of RFT key performance areas (KPAs). In much the same way as performance is tracked and driven by KPIs across the whole project, the required levels of performance are set by a number of KPIs, which, in turn, are translated into lead indicators. The lead indicators characterize performance in terms of the ability to meet the desired KPIs.

The other key area of focus builds on lessons learned from past projects, developing mitigating actions to prevent reoccurrence and tasking responsible parties with managing potential faults.

In order for the process to be successful, the owner, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers all are required to comply with the RFT process by identifying lessons learned, using proven best practices, and cooperating in fault mitigation and risk management.

The LCLNG project strategy is to implement RFT consistently over all locations, from engineering offices to fabrication and module yards, maximizing company and team resources supported by the corporate organization. Detailed RFT plans have been developed for each phase of the project.

KPAs and KPIs

The LCLNG project’s Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy is aligned with the PPM strategy in that it will use KPAs and KPIs to measure and identify deviations from required and stated HSE management performance criteria. The KPAs and KPIs will be used to provide regular updates to the project management team on project HSE performance and will enable timely influence if performance is seen to be below the required target level.

KPAs are defined as being distinct scopes of work, tasks, or activities linked to overall project goals, objectives, and critical success factors that, if done well, will drive delivery excellence in HSE. KPIs (both leading and lagging) will ensure that a specific KPA has measurable data sets that can support action, compliance, and intervention when required. The Getting Ahead of the Curve strategy typically supports leading indicators that can give advanced warning of trends and issues so that initiatives and programs can be put in place to drive the change required to ensure HSE incidents will be avoided.

The proposed KPAs and KPIs have been communicated to each of the EPC bidders, with further details created in alignment with them and the LCLNG project management team during the FEED stage so that the agreed set will be included in the contract and reported against through the execution phase.


The front-end loading of HSE management planning can deliver a real benefit in terms of improved safety performance throughout the different stages of a large and intensive capital project, from commissioning through to startup and operations.

The LCLNG project will focus on implementing and undertaking the following critical initiatives to establish the right safety culture and set up the project to achieve Goal Zero from the outset:

  • Front-end loading HSE management planning from before the start of execution throughout the execution phase

  • Including HSE management requirements, responsibilities, and lessons learned into the EPC contract

  • Following the PPM approach

  • Using the leading project HSE indicators to enable a position of proactive rather than reactive HSE management

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 184422, “Getting Ahead of the Curve—Front-End Loading HSSE Management Planning in Major Capital Projects,” by Andrew Wharton, Shell Global Solutions International, prepared for the 2017 SPE Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference—North America, New Orleans, 18–20 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.




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