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Embracing HOP: How Five Principles Changed The Way We Think Of Safety


John Bolt
Vice President of Health, Safety and Environment

Construction worker

Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) has emerged as a transformative approach to workplace safety. Unlike traditional models that often pinpoint human error as the primary cause of workplace incidents, HOP emphasizes understanding the systemic factors contributing to such events. The five HOP principles include: error is normal, blame fixes nothing, context drives behavior, learning is vital and response matters.

As more companies embrace HOP, our conversation with peers and customers centers on a key question: How do we transform the theoretical aspects of HOP into practical, daily operations?

So, as we look ahead to 2024, let's reflect on S&B's HOP journey, best practices and the future.

From theory to practice

The five principles became part of our leadership philosophy and fundamentally changed how we think about and discuss safety. Our leaders grasped the principles and theory of HOP, profoundly influencing their decision-making and communication. This, in turn, sends clear signals about the organization's values, weaving HOP concepts into the very fabric of business operations. As leaders consistently integrate these principles, they become part of their instinctive approach to leading, echoing through every discussion and directive.

This integration at the leadership level paves the way for implementing error reduction tools effectively at the task level, benefiting hands-on workers and engineers alike. With an understanding that these tools are rooted in the science of how the human brain functions, leaders and employees can apply them to improve outcomes consistently, ensuring that these practices are embedded into the organization's work processes across the board.

In fact, S&B recently received recognition at the 2023 Phillips 66 Contractor Safety Forum for its successful application of HOP. This honor reflects the leadership's dedication to innovative safety practices and the enhancement of workplace culture.

Shift mindsets

At S&B, we understand the importance of a paradigm shift from a blame-centric mindset to a more holistic understanding of mistakes in the workplace. Traditionally, the focus was on pinpointing individual responsibility, often culminating in punitive measures. This view restricted the organization's ability to best learn and grow from these incidents. In contrast, we now understand the critical role of analyzing the broader system in which these errors occur, aligning with research expert W. Edwards Deming's principle that most industrial incidents involve factors beyond human error. By concentrating on systemic contributors to errors, like ineffective barriers or systemic flaws that inadvertently encourage mistakes, the organization strives for continuous improvement. This approach has improved outcomes and transformed each error into a valuable learning opportunity. It has enabled the organization to significantly refine work processes, programs, tools, education, and training, leading to a more thoughtful and effective strategy for continuous improvement and learning.

Empower workers

Our workforce embraces HOP principles to cultivate an environment that improves safety outcomes and simplifies the path to successful job completion. The goal is to make it easier for our team to achieve their objectives without encountering adverse outcomes. This shift resonates with our workforce, marking a significant change from our previous practices. For instance, after an incident involving pipe fitters at a job site, the organization engaged the employees in learning. This approach led to practical solutions that improved safety and productivity, demonstrating the value of empowering workers to contribute to operational improvements.

Look ahead to 2024

As we move into 2024, S&B aims to further embed HOP principles across the organization. This includes introducing error reduction tools during new hire orientations and subcontractor onboarding. The focus will also extend to engineering, recognizing the impact of design decisions on field safety and efficiency. As we look forward, our HOP journey remains focused on continuous learning, adaptation, and improvement. By embracing these principles, organizations can create safer, more efficient, and more resilient workplaces, benefiting the entire industry.

HOP strengthens the core safety programs, processes and procedures that have made S&B successful. HOP reinforces our strong safety culture and supports our deeply held core values, ensuring our S&B team members go home to their families at the end of each day. Read more about S&B's safety culture.


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