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Health, safety, and environment (HSE)

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HSE—or health, safety, and environment—is commonly used as shorthand for HSSES (health, safety, environment, security, and social economics) and is also known as SHE or EHS. An alternative term for it is occupational safety and health (OSH).[1] Some organizations include security and social economics under the HSE umbrella. Titling it HSSES becomes cumbersome, so the abbreviation HSE is typically used include safety and security. Safety, health, environmental, security, and social economics are separate disciplines, each with its own technology; however, these disciplines are often combined in the same functional groups within exploration and production (E&P) organizations.


The health function typically deals with the well-being of the employees as they live and work in the E&P environment. Typically, the health function focuses on the effects of oilfield chemicals and oilfield physical environment on employees.


The safety function focuses on protecting the employee from risk involved in E&P operations. All E&P operations involve some risk from operational hazards. The safety function seeks to minimize these risks and monitor the effectiveness of the minimization activities.


The enviromental function focuses on the effects E&P have on the external environment. Typically,the discipline deals with those effect that occurs outside the E&P footprint. Included are the effects of air emissions, waste water discharges, and disposal of waste.


The security function focuses on protection of the E&P employees and property from external intrusion. It deals with such intrusions such as theft, vandalism, and civil unrest.

Social economics

Social economics is a new field focusing on the impact the E&P have on the local community. It includes such activities as hiring, training, impact on local businesses, and stability of the available local work force. It can include safety, health, environmental, and security impacts on the community.

Governmental organizations and HSE

Governmental organizations around the world are in place to institute regulations and penalize organizations that do not follow those regulations. These regulations protect employees of organizations, the local community, the environment, and all others possibly affected by the aspects of HSE. Such governmental organizations (at the national level) include OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) in the United States, HSE (Health and Safety Executive) in the United Kingdom, and CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety) in Canada. Additionally, organizations like OSHA international and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work regulate multiple countries, with or without their own HSE organizations.

HSE institutionalization

Though government regulations protect HSE interests, it is up to the industry, and organizations within the industry, to go beyond those regulations. Institutionalized organizations include the following characteristics:[2]

  • Leadership—Leaders should be proactively involved in HSE activities and set goals and KPIs that include all levels of management. Examples: Chairing an HSE committee, participating in inspections/audits, assisting in accident investigations, and leading safety campaigns or meetings.
  • Competency—Competency represents training, knowledge, skill, and experience. Competency may start in the classroom, but it continues to job site task instructions, refresher training, testing, and licenses. All job tasks should follow job procedures and all critical tasks should align with job task analysis.
  • Risk awareness (Communication of Risk)—Risk awareness transforms average HSE performers into world-class HSE performers. Risk awareness and communication include individuals and groups who talk amongst themselves about hazards and risks. Interactions could happen between a worker and co-worker, a worker and foreman, teams with different functions, worker and contractor, or employee and management. Everyone would need to be trained in hazard identification, encouraged to openly report hazards, and be empowered to stop serious unsafe acts or conditions if warranted.
  • Two-way and open communication—Poor communication is almost always one of the direct or indirect causes of an accident or process incident. Negative communication, exemplified by finger-pointing, shouting, and constant blame, hinders open communication. Companies with institutionalized HSE have a no-blame accident culture and rarely apply discipline, even following an accident, unless it is deemed deliberate. Good communication skills, which include open-door policies, open communication between all workers and management, positive re-enforcement/praise for good work are all attributes of an institutionalized company.
  • Setting of leading and lagging HSE metrics—These metrics should be closely aligned with the approved safety management system (SMS), are monitored on a regular basis and are tied to job performance ratings of the person assigned the HSE task.

These five characteristics are critical but are not the only elements an institutionalized company possesses.


  1. Wikipedia. 2014. Occupational safety and health (8 October 2014 revision). (accessed 22 October 2014).
  2. Hallmark, R.G. 2009. Institutionalization of HSE. Presented at the SPE Americas E&P Environmental & Safety Conference, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 23-25 March. SPE-120576-MS.

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Bada, A. J., & Ugbebor, J. (2012, January 1). HSE Culture as a Panacea to Redefining HSE Excellence and Sustaining HSE Best Practices. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/162962-MS

Bergeron, S., & Mutimer, K. (2012, April 30). Jubilee Development HSE Management and Safety Case. Offshore Technology Conference. doi:10.4043/23463-MS

Berg, S. K. (2002, January 1). Culture and HSE Management. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/73993-MS

Breitsprecher, K., Hinton, J. J., Harris, W., Crabb, S. L., Jacques, P., & de Hoedt, B. (2012, January 1). Accelerating HSE Culture Through HSE Leadership. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/157313-MS

Cramer, R., Shaw, D., Tulalian, R., Angelo, P., & van Stuijvenberg, M. (2014, April 1). Detecting and Correcting Pipeline Leaks Before They Become a Big Problem. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/167874-MS

Gomm, C., Brosnan, C., Grundt, H. J., Hartog, J., & Thoem, T. (2000, January 1). Global Upstream HSE Benchmarking. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/61319-MS

Jose, S. J., Arango, G., Flichy, P., & Featherly, J. (2014, April 1). Trusted Operations--Integrating Operational Performance, Safety and Security Assurance. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/167905-MS

Milne, D. J., Willink, C. A. T., Sexton, K., & Stockley, J. D. (1994, January 1). Guidance Manual on HSE. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/27292-MS

Perkinson, L. (2012, January 1). HSE a Strategic Function? Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/152817-MS

Richardson, D., Grange, B., & Hickey, G. (2014, April 1). Managing Safety Overrides across your Upstream Business. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/167901-MS

Shaikh, M. (2012, January 1). Key initiatives towards HSE Excellence. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/163329-MS

Taylor, C., Sarshar, S., & Larsen, S. (2014, April 1). How IO Leaders Can Use Technology to Enhance Risk Perception and Communication. Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/167838-MS

Wilkins, M. J. (2014, April 1). Are Machines Better Than Humans in Crisis? Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/167893-MS

Wilson, V. A. (2014, March 17). HSE and Well Integrity: Friends or Foes? Society of Petroleum Engineers. doi:10.2118/168407-MS

External links

Hinton, Jack, and John Karish. 2015. "“Getting To Zero – The Road to Stavanger” - Asia Pacific." Web Events. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

See also

Drilling fluid environmental considerations

Drilling waste management

Drilling safety


Related books

Slocum, D. ed. 2009. Best Practices in HSE. Richardson, Texas: Reprint Series, Society of Petroleum Engineers.