Pedro Fernández
Vice President

People-Focused Safety Consulting

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 16:50

Some might be surprised that DuPont, a company known predominantly for its work in the chemical industry, is also a world leader in safety consulting. Mexico is one of DuPont’s biggest markets for these services, with Pemex being one of the consultancy business’s largest clients. Pedro Fernández, Vice President of DuPont Sustainable Solutions Latin America, explains how the company got into the business of providing advice on safety: “As a company, DuPont shifts and changes its portfolio fairly frequently. Around 12 years ago, our current CEO suggested that we should capitalize on our success in safety, health and environment, and start a consultancy where we could share our knowledge for profit. Today, this is the only consulting business in the DuPont portfolio.” The consultancy focuses on a number of key areas in industrial safety, including occupational health, mechanical integrity, sustainability and environmental issues, and clean technology.

DuPont has created its team of safety consultants by bringing in those with extensive experience to teach and consult, making consultancy a career change that occurs later in someone’s professional life at DuPont. DuPont drew on Spanish-speaking experts when it formed its partnership with Pemex, including experts that had worked with Repsol, PDVSA, and Ecopetrol. Fernández stresses that rather than being technology focused, DuPont’s safety strategy centers on people, and creating behavioural changes in companies in order to help them stay safe. “We create the proper processes, systems and infrastructure to make sure that people can operate in a disciplined manner according to their procedures. There are other companies complementing what we do, like the owners of the technological packages that help improve safety, but once these improvements are made, we get into the actors.”

DuPont’s collaboration with Pemex began in 2000 after the explosion at the Cactus gas terminal in Tabasco. From this initial point of contact, DuPont expanded its collaboration to work with all four Pemex subsidiaries, as well as at the corporate level. Today, the company’s major contracts are with Pemex E&P and Pemex Refining. The work involves creating a safety curriculum for the company, for training of safety personnel. DuPont believes the best way to do this is through creating a Pemex ‘academy’ for safety training. While DuPont’s cooperation with Pemex started with safety, it has now been extended to creating unique solutions for the NOC in terms of employee safety, learning and development, which includes defining how to train people and developing their capabilities around these safety concepts. “One of our key areas of focus here has been in environmental sustainability and occupational health, which is not something that DuPont does a lot of worldwide. However, it has proven to be very successful here. We have worked hard in this area to transfer some of our knowledge and experience of plant operation, the role of the medical community and HR, to create a safe environment not only in terms of both safety and wellness. These two concepts create a virtuous circle that elevates employees’ levels of commitment and focus on safety.”

After achieving impressive success in the field of exploration and production, Pemex is now concentrating on refining as its priority area for safety improvements. DuPont is helping the company to face challenges in this area.

“As recent events have shown, Pemex Refining has a problem with its maintenance strategy and its attitude to safety,” Fernández says. “Our strategy is to help Pemex create a system of safety of which employees feel a large degree of ownership. Hopefully, this will not only improve the safety of refining units, but will also increase productivity, by increasing uptime and addressing concerns over mechanical integrity.”

The relationship between safety and e·ciency is what Fernández refers to as a journey: “e·ciency is related to equipment running up to speed and potential, and for that it needs to be well maintained, according to the correct standards, and this cannot be achieved without good process safety. With safe employees, downtime can be reduced because accidents will occur with less frequency, and this in turn leads to increases in productivity. This is what we will be focusing on as we start to help Pemex improve its refinery processes.”