“In any situation, we’re fortunate to have tools to do our jobs safely – for ourselves, our family and friends,” says Barrie Sylvestre, a Canadian specialized in HSE risk assessment and safety plans. He has worked in this field for 25 years, 20 of which were spent in various countries throughout Asia. This has given him insight into what motivates people to undertake work in this industry and their behavior when it comes to safety responsiveness.
“Initially, I fell into oil & gas in 1990 when I was told about a job in geophysical research. I’d never heard of this before – and the next thing I knew, I was on a ship off Australia surrounded by the absolute beauty of the sea,” Barrie recalls.
From there, he went on to work for various contractors in the seismic industry, moving from project to project throughout Asia. One of the most dangerous projects Barrie ever worked on was a deep-water job in Indonesia, where he helped remove fish attraction devices that were anchored to the seabed. Not only did the job require compensating local fishermen for loss of their livelihood, it also demanded the skilled use of winches and cables to retrieve the devices.
“In all, the work was very intense. I saw the need for hands-on training of the crews on the vessels to do the work safely,” he said. “So, my focus was on making sure that the job was done safely and that all logistics were taken into account.” The project of removing 300 fish attraction devices was completed incident-free and two weeks ahead of schedule. “It was definitely one turning point in my career,” Barrie smiles.
He says: “To succeed, you need to win the respect of the people you’re working with. Then they’ll listen. It’s not policing – or reprimanding.”
Since 2007, Barrie has worked as an independent contractor directly for clients. He moved back to Canada in 2009 with his wife who he met on a contract in Indonesia. “My wife is my passion, my mentor and my friend. Since she’s worked in the industry, she understands what I do out there,” Barrie says.
His biggest hope would be that safety could be taught already in schools. “It’s a mindset,” he underlines. “Ask yourself, ‘What if?’ And remember to do every job safely. Accidents affect your income, your family, and can result in long-term disabilities.”
Barrie warmly recommends his own motto: “Listen to everyone and learn from everyone, because nobody knows everything, but everyone knows something.”