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Active leaders know that the best way to find out what is going on in the workplace is to get out from behind their desks, pull their boots on, and go out to site to see for themselves. This means making regular site visits to talk informally with frontline employees about the safety issues they may be facing and any safety concerns they may have.

Upstream Production Solutions (Upstream PS) is a provider of fully integrated capabilities for asset optimisation and production solutions to the oil, gas, energy and water industries. With offices in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and client service facilities in Chinchilla, Roma, Gladstone and Darwin, Upstream PS has more than 350 permanent staff and a large pool of project and contract employees providing operations, maintenance, project and advisory services to clients across Australia.

Upstream PS’s expanding maintenance business currently maintains over 5,000 on and offshore well-sites, 25 production facilities and more than 25,000 pressure safety valves (PSVs) nationally.

With a workforce spread far and wide, often at remote locations, it’s essential that Upstream PS managers maintain a personal connection and open communication with their people out on site. This is particularly the case in situations where Upstream PS is engaged by a client under a contract mode  where the Upstream PS team work on a client’s site, under the client’s safety management system and the client’s direct supervision.



Safety Leadership Visits aim to promote visible safety leadership and effective safety conversations at site level. Safer Together developed a suite of practical tools to encourage and support senior leaders make regular visits to site to talk informally with frontline personnel about the safety issues that relate directly to them. The focus of these tools is on promoting better safety conversations and leadership practices at site level.

Safer Together member companies were also encouraged to pair up to conduct Safety Leadership Visits and share their experiences, to promote industry-wide learning and to help build a sense of community.

The tools developed by Safer Together emphasise that a Safety Leadership Visit is not an inspection of facilities and equipment, or an audit of  procedures – it is instead about people. Nor is it about lecturing people on the importance of safety – it is instead about listening to them with humility.




Upstream PS had already been doing Safety Leadership Visits for several years before the Safer Together materials were released. However, in the early stages these visits were initially more facility-focused than people-focused, and some managers involved in these types of visits observed that this resulted in their people on site being apprehensive to open up and engage.

The Safer Together materials reinforced what Upstream PS managers had concluded based on their own experiences during their site visits, that the emphasis needed to be more about people and engaging them in effective conversations about the safety and health issues that relate directly to them, and their personal well-being.

One example that illustrates the challenges of maintaining a connection with people working at remote locations is that Upstream PS has a small team of  people working at an Onshore Gas Processing Facility in the Northern Territory, more than 400 km south-west of Darwin. It’s a 7-hour drive by road to the facility, and during the wet season travel by road is not an option. 

At least 4 times a year, the Upstream PS Regional Operations Manager would routinely visit the client’s facility, well aware of the importance of maintaining a regular connection with each of the people in the Upstream PS team. During these visits, other people on site who were not part of the Upstream PS would also take the opportunity to come and have a chat.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 complicated matters because of the strict travel restrictions that were quickly imposed by State and Territory governments to prevent the spread of the virus. Remote indigenous communities were particularly vulnerable. Non-essential workers were not permitted to travel to the Onshore Gas Processing Facility, and this included the Upstream PS Regional Operations Manager.

The Upstream PS Safety Culture Program - “360 DEGREES: Safety from every angle” – focuses on asking people to proactively think about safety from every angle before proceeding with any task, and here was a situation that required exactly this type of approach. The need to adapt and find different ways of connecting was apparent.

By necessity people became more comfortable with connecting remotely, so a greater reliance on more frequent video calls via MS Teams was one of the changes that occurred. But it’s not an effective substitute for more personalised, face-to-face communication. So instead of meeting people at the site, the Upstream PS Regional Operations Manager met each of their team members at the airport to connect with them personally on their journey to/from the site.

In addition, the respective managers from Upstream PS and the client organisation were aligned in their view that it didn’t matter which logo was on the shirt, everyone on site – regardless of who was their employer - was part of the same team.  This meant that management representatives from the client organisation dedicated time and energy into not only having frequent conversations with their own employees on site to check on their safety, health and well-being, but also with the Upstream PS personnel.

This had the added benefit of demonstrating to everyone on site that the management team of both the client and contractor were aligned in sharing the same values and consistent safety behaviours. It also provided reassurance to Upstream PS that someone was “looking out for” their people to check they were okay.

“It’s understandable that people can feel apprehensive about raising safety issues or concerns with their line manager. So managers from other parties on site conducting the same type of safety leadership visits is really useful because often people feel more comfortable having an open conversation with someone who isn’t their boss.”  (Regional Operations Manager)

“Having a manager that shows they care about the people and not just about the bottom dollar is refreshing to the whole team. It helps us stay more focused on our work knowing that we have a manager that is watching our backs.” (Instrument / Electrical Technician)


Lessons Learnt

Face-to-Face Matters – useful though virtual communication channels can be, this is something you cannot do effectively via a screen. Face-to-face interaction strengthens interpersonal connections among team members, and this helps to establish and build trust.

Partner With All Parties – senior leaders from different companies all adopting a consistent approach to safety leadership visits will open up a richer conversation with the workforce and demonstrates what genuine safety collaboration looks like.

Regular as Clockwork – open communication and ongoing engagement relies heavily on frequent contact, so make these visits a regular occurrence. It’s difficult to build a strong relationship with someone if you only see them once a year.

Download the Case Study Poster here

For more information about Upstream Production Solutions click here

For more information about Safety Leadership Visits click here