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SWN employs a range of health, safety and environmental (HSE) training and other programs to support our strong safety culture and drive HSE performance. See the Governance section for more on our approach the HSE management.
SWN Leadership Training
2019 witnessed SWN’s rollout of a new hands-on Safety Leadership Training series. These hands-on sessions covered skills and keys for leaders in successfully driving HSE performance, targeting frontline field supervisors for over 300 employees in Drilling, Completions, Facilities and Technology and division operations. Specific topics covered included the importance of setting clear expectations, coaching, instilling accountability to employees and managing high risk activities. The result of these sessions was better preparedness of frontline leadership to drive and improve SWN’s safety culture and performance.
Behavior-based safety1 plays an important role in our efforts to continuously improve HSE performance. SWN’s STOP® program2 drives behavior by empowering every SWN employee and contractor to directly protect the safety of not only themselves, but also of their co-workers, workspaces and operational sites.
STOP® achieves safety improvements through open communication, immediate behavior correction and the integration of relevant safety-related observations and learnings into how our work is done.
STOP® works by training individuals how to be observant and identify safe and unsafe behaviors and then gives them a mechanism – a “STOP® observation” – to engage immediately in critical conversations about the behaviors they observe. All SWN employees and contractors are engaged in STOP®. Vital to the program is that all observations are made in a spirit of mutual respect and founded in the moral and ethical responsibility that we have to care for one another’s safety and well-being. Through STOP®, SWN employees and contractors address and report unsafe behaviors immediately – including through a mobile STOP® application – which initiates appropriate follow-up, including the implementation of identified process improvements. The program reinforces health and safety as a SWN core value and helps build a culture of HSE excellence by supporting safe behaviors and allowing for the correction of unsafe behaviors before an incident occurs.
In 2019, our STOP® program continued to mature and bear results. Employees are recognized for their participation in the STOP® program through our STOP® Card Recognition program, a way to recognize and reward those that go above and beyond to build, spread and maintain a superior safety culture at SWN. STOP® continues to help us proactively identify and effectively mitigate numerous risks, hazards and risky behaviors in order to protect human health and safety. SWN is using the information gained through STOP® to identify trends and behavior patterns, mitigate risks and prevent incidents before they happen.
Stop-Work Authority, JSEAs and Hazard Hunts
Every individual present at a SWN job site has full authority and discretion to immediately stop all work on the site – no questions asked – if a safety or environmental risk that has not been adequately mitigated is perceived. Once work is stopped, the risk must be assessed and either eliminated or mitigated. Also utilized at SWN sites to identify, mitigate and eliminate HSE risks are Job Safety and Environmental Analyses (JSEAs) and “hazard hunts.”
- JSEAs are an assessment generally conducted for all operations in the field. They involve SWN employees and/or contractors collaboratively mapping out each step of the relevant work to identify any potential safety or environmental risks or hazards. These risks and/or hazards will then be eliminated or appropriately mitigated before work begins. Operations management periodically conducts JSEA reviews to identify areas for improvement, as well as help facilitate dialogue with employees and contractors to reinforce our ONE Team culture.
- Hazard hunts are periodic stop-work exercises we use to identify, document and eliminate or mitigate potential hazards in a given work area. All levels of SWN employees and contractors participate in hazard hunts, up to and including senior and executive management. In 2019, operations management set monthly targets with respect to High Impact Hazard Hunts. These hunts enforced our safety culture and led to the identification and mitigation or elimination of numerous risks that could have otherwise resulted in an incident.
Safety and Environmental Assurance Champions
SWN’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Champion program rotates experienced safety professionals through our operational divisions and work sites. These Champions assess applicable risks and behaviors and then report back to SWN leadership to share learnings and develop ideas for improvement (e.g., process or equipment improvements or trainings).
In 2019, we continued the Champion program. Our champions continue to provide direct support in the field, coaching in real-time and focusing on higher-risk activities.
Assurance and Assessments
Our HSE assurance process requires regular assessments of SWN’s own and our contractors’ operations, as well as all third-party waste facilities, for both compliance and HSE quality-control purposes. The assurance assessments allow us to standardize and replicate best practices, as well as identify contractors with effective HSE systems. In 2019, we continued assurance assessments and also leveraged our existing software systems to perform an additional Review and Verification audit on 20 key contractors.
SWN uses a comprehensive incident management system to track, analyze, report and follow up on HSE incidents. Corrective measures are identified, implemented and shared to minimize recurrence.
We track and report on near hits, as well as actual incidents, as part of our proactive approach to improving HSE performance, and we share learnings across our own and our contractors’ workforces.
Near hits are reported and analyzed for trends and potential corrective actions. As part of this process, all critical or “high-potential” near hits are designated for formal investigation and analysis to formulate corrective actions and prevent recurrence.
In 2019, we increased the efficiency and capability of our incident management system to allow for root cause analysis, as well as the ability to assign and track corrective actions, which ensures preventative measures are closed in a timely manner. We also expanded our system to include a mobile application, an inspection module and a customized reporting tool, which have the following benefits:
- The mobile application affords us the ability to capture real-time data associated with incidents and near hits, including photos and documentation, and notify leadership each time an event is submitted.
- Inspections are conducted daily on our locations, and if a potential hazard or issue is identified, it can be immediately integrated directly in the application, along with suggested action plans. This inspection information is sent with real-time notifications to leadership regarding the need and plan to take corrective action.
- Customized and automated reports and dashboards advance our analytics and forecasting capabilities.
Training is integral to any successful HSE program. We take program execution and participation seriously; in 2019, greater than 95% of all company and job-specific training was completed on time. Some of SWN’s key HSE training programs are as follows.
Training Assurance Program (TAP)
TAP is a required HSE training program for all SWN and contractor employees present in the field. See the ONE Team section for more on how we ensure that our contractors meet and uphold SWN’s standards.
SWN and contractor employees working in the field participate in JSEA training workshops to further improve and standardize the JSEA process and risk awareness, identification, mitigation and elimination.
Driver Safety Training
In 2019, SWN drivers logged approximately 7million miles on company business. All employees who operate a vehicle for company business must periodically take and pass a driver training course. In addition, SWN invested in an in-vehicle monitoring and real-time feedback system for all SWN-owned vehicles, which allows for immediate behavior modification and notifies SWN management of recurring problems.
Driver safety is an important focus at SWN, and we have some of the safest drivers in the industry, according to the American Exploration and Production Council.3
Short Service Employee Training and Mentoring
“Short service employees,” or field employees who have had less than six months of service with the company or in their job function or role, can pose a disproportionate risk of incidents if not properly trained. Our Field Employee Competency program provides training and mentoring for short service SWN and contractor employees to help them understand SWN’s HSE culture as well as the company’s expectations and requirements for their role. Each individual in the Competency program is paired with a more experienced mentor trained in the same job function. At the end of the program the participant must pass a job-specific competency evaluation. Counter to industry trends, short service employees (those with less than one year in their job function) represent less than one-third of SWN’s recordable injuries in 2019, indicating good training, mentoring and oversight.
SWN employees in our operating divisions participated in TapRoot Investigation Training, which provides tools and systems that improve incident investigations. This allows for better identification and understanding of the true root cause of a given incident (including near hits), allowing us to capture learnings that can be used to prevent incidents and mitigate or eliminate risks.
SWN has built a foundation of comprehensive engineering standards that guide our design and construction processes. Hazards are “designed out” where feasible, and robust controls are “designed in” where hazards cannot be eliminated. Our quality assurance process ensures that all new equipment meets our mechanical integrity and operational requirements and is installed correctly.
To maintain ongoing asset integrity, SWN employs a well-planned maintenance program and proactive risk-based inspections. Heightened focus is given to inspections of equipment or sites with higher risks for potential impact to human health and safety and/or the environment. We also use robust processes and administrative controls, such as Management of Change processes and well-documented Standard Operating Procedures.
SWN’s industrial hygiene program seeks to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and eliminate and/or mitigate workplace health risks in the following focus areas.
Preventing Exposure to Silica Dust
We take the following measures to reduce or eliminate worker exposure to crystalline silica dust on SWN operational sites:
- Use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including respirators
- Engineering controls and best practices, which are refined and improved through ongoing evaluation
- New sand delivery methods using closed, mobile boxes that can be trucked directly to completion sites
- Use of sand storage silos with built-in dust control, as well as automated sand hoppers, closed cab blenders and improved dust control on sand belts
In addition, we use a proactive medical surveillance program for employees with potential silica exposure that includes maintaining detailed work histories and performing physical examinations, chest x-rays and spirometry.
Managing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials
Naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) can be found in our operational areas. We have proactively addressed NORM in accordance with applicable federal and state regulations. Well locations at higher risk of accumulating NORM are identified, and detailed NORM management and control plans are developed as required by applicable law. Any services we use to remove or dispose of NORM-contaminated material are conducted by contractors and/or facilities that are properly vetted and approved in accordance with applicable law and the SWN HSE assurance process. See the Environment section for more on NORM.
Protection from Excessive Noise
SWN works to mitigate excessive noise from our operations, and we have stringent requirements for limiting noise exposure. Noise surveys are conducted at least annually to identify high exposure areas and determine employee exposure, and we develop noise protection plans and take other measures to understand and mitigate impacts on local residents. See the Communities section for more on how we mitigate compressor noise.
Emergency Preparedness and Response
SWN works with local emergency responders to develop preparedness, response and business resumption plans for all SWN-operated facilities. Crisis drills are conducted in all of our operating locations, involving local emergency responders as appropriate.
In 2019, all of our frontline leadership in our operational divisions completed NIMS ICS4 Training courses. Additionally, each of our operational divisions held two emergency response practice drills.
SWN’s Emergency Mass Notification System gives us the ability to efficiently send and receive critical information through text messages, phone calls and emails. In the event of a potentially hazardous situation, targeted notifications are sent to personnel who could be affected. The system can also be used to assess and confirm the safety status of personnel. In 2019, the system was used to effectively distribute notifications to employees and contractors with important information regarding security, office closures and severe weather threats.
- "Behavior-based safety" refers to the understanding that operational safety performance is dependent on individual behavior, since the vast majority of safety incidents are caused by behavior-based human error.
- STOP® stands for Safety Training Observation Program. SWN’s STOP® program is based on the renowned DuPont safety program of the same name.
- American Exploration and Production Council, 2017 annual Safety Benchmarking Study (the most recent data available at time of publication in September 2020).
- National Incident Management System, Incident Command System Training.