Process Safety is important. When applied rigorously it consistently saves future lives and improves company bottom lines. If appropriate and relatively low cost measures had been taken on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in early 2010, 11 lives would have been saved and ~$50bn of cost avoided.

However, Process Safety is often also perceived as Pedantic, Non-Engaging, Staid and Dull. Furthermore, I believe it is also avoided because of the association with pain, stress and loss. Daniel Kahneman observed in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, an irrational fear when he stopped at traffic lights in Tel Aviv by a bus following a spate of bus bombings in the city. As a psychological researched, he knew that the chances of the adjacent bus blowing up when he was next to it were vanishingly small, nevertheless his awareness of that proximity triggered thoughts of bombing and generated an urge to distance himself from the bus and the threat. In the same way, the more we think about Process Safety, the more likely we are to be drawn into feeling uncomfortable about Process Incidents, thus leading to a psychological rejection of the whole field. We want to tip the bath water out and the baby inevitably departs as well.

I believe we need to find innovative ways of engaging and enthusing our entire Process Industry workforce about Process Safety. A 2015 Gallup poll reported that “the majority (51%) of employees were ‘not engaged,’ while another 17% were ‘actively disengaged’” with their work. One technique we could employ is gamification. Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. As a child we learn through play, while as an adult we use play to relax. Some video games have already had unintended population health benefits. Reviewers of the popular location-based game Pokémon Go praised the game enabling the promotion of physical exercise. Terri Schwartz (IGN) said it was "secretly the best exercise app out there" and that it changed her daily walking routine. According to a study, users took 26% more steps per day once they started using the app.

Yu-kai Chou, is an authority on Gamification and Behavioural Design. He developed a Gamification Framework, Octalysis, after more than 10 years of Gamification research and study. The 8 gamification tenets which can be applied to an activity to make it more captivating are: Meaning, Accomplishment, Empowerment, Ownership, Social Influence, Scarcity, Unpredictability, Avoidance. Fleshing them out, with a possible PS twist, they are:

  • Epic Meaning and Callingparticipants feel that their PS mission is critical and larger than themselves alone.
  • Development and Accomplishmentgenerate short term gratification (e.g. milestone celebration) to encourage participants to endeavour with activity.
  • Empowerment of Creativity and Feedbackiterative and evolving mini-task combined with feedback
  • Ownership and PossessionPerhaps by creating a character which needs to be protected from PS incidents
  • Social Influence and RelatednessCompare and contrast with the performance of other front line teams. Create a PS league table.
  • Scarcity and ImpatiencePut goals just out of reach so they become tantalising
  • Unpredictability and CuriosityRandomly select and notify participants for a monthly PS lottery when a PS task is completed
  • Loss and AvoidanceEngender a sense of potential loss to the character, or perhaps the participants family if they are injured/killed.

I reckon we could weave these principles into a smart phone or tablet app for front line workers so that, for them, Process Safety sparkles and shines. And if they love it, we all benefit.

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