Evolution of Safety SolutionsWed, 01/22/2014 - 12:45
“In the past, oil and gas companies believed safety was an unnecessary expense, but nowadays, due to a variety of reasons, it is seen as a vital investment,” says José Luis Kuri Con, CEO of Vallen. This mentality shift has allowed Vallen to not only find new opportunities in the safety industry, but allowed the company to change its focus from being a safety equipment and services provider to oering integrated safety solutions.
Vallen began operations in 1985 with the buying and selling of safety equipment for the automotive, manufacturing, steel, and pharmaceutical industries, but after recognizing the potential opportunities the oil and gas industry oered in the city of Tampico, the company began providing polycarbonate safety equipment to Pemex. “Up until 1996 we functioned with many limitations and boundaries; we could only oer safety equipment, but with the appointment of Carlos Razo as director of Pemex’s new drilling unit – which had as one of its main objectives the improvement of safety performance in upstream activities – we were able to adapt our strategy,” Kuri Con recalls. There was a great opportunity for Vallen, since oil and gas related accidents in Mexico were 10 times higher than the international benchmark. After conducting various safety studies, the company started oering Pemex an integrated solution to its safety problems. “We had an epiphany and decided to change the core of our service,” he adds.
Vallen was very familiar with the safety equipment Pemex needed for exploration and production, but had never been involved in the end product: preventing accidents to Pemex personnel and infrastructure. Vallen created an integrated solution based on software with the ability to organize the necessary equipment by size, condition, area, and quantity. “With this specific software we were able to establish the needs of each worker in each area, understand the risk they encountered in their daily jobs, create a distribution network based on the information acquired, and minimize the safety risks Pemex personnel faced,” details Kuri Con. He explains that by mapping all wells and drilling equipment, interviewing over 8,000 Pemex personnel, and analyzing the information using a statistical package with experts in various fields – including industrial security, psychology, statistics, and environmental safety – they were able to identify and reduce the risk posed to the infrastructure and human resources of Pemex and other companies in the oil and gas industry. Once the risk study was completed, Vallen hired a group of specialists to develop guidelines, manuals, and procedures regarding safety, and created a training group in charge of educating workers. The goal was to help Pemex’s drilling and well maintenance unit reduce accidents to international benchmarks in five years. “We are extremely proud of achieving the goal in less than two and a half years, which also speaks of Pemex’s commitment to safety and security,” says Kuri Con. “When we began working with Pemex, the accident rate was 24 accidents per million man hours worked and we managed to reduce this rate to 2.8 by controlling the supply of the correct equipment in combination with consulting and capacity building courses.
“Vallen’s new philosophy of oering integrated solutions worked perfectly; instead of selling products to fulfill the equipment needs of our clients, we sell equipment and solutions to diminish risk and avoid accidents,” states Kuri Con. However, Kuri Con believes there is more work to be done, since political issues and bureaucratic processes at Pemex have led to the rupture of this positive trend and many companies that have been awarded contracts are not performing at the required safety levels. Nonetheless, Kuri Con is a firm believer in Mexico’s ability to reach international benchmark safety standards because there is a continuous desire from Pemex to improve safety and security, but also due to the level of standardization of safety processes worldwide. “Safety standards, with the help of globalization, have been homogenized. Every free trade agreement or economic cooperation includes them, as well as regulations with regard to the environment, infrastructure, financial, and human resources,” he emphasizes. Additionally, the presence in Mexico of international companies with the highest levels of safety and security – such as Dupont, Schlumberger, and Halliburton – serve as a reference and inspiration for Mexican companies to strive for both success and safety.
“Vallen is currently a diversified company, where oil and gas constitutes 22% of our sales, automotive 32%, mining 11%, and the remaining 35% is divided between the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications industries, successfully protecting over 95,000 Mexican workers” says Kuri Con. Furthermore, Vallen is expecting to continue growing in the future because of a continuing mentality change in Mexico. “Organizations in the country nowadays view safety as an investment because it does not only protect infrastructure and processes, but also because it protects what Mexican companies have come to understand is their most valuable asset: their human capital,” he adds.