Array 20 Years of Time Out For Safety

20 Years of Time Out For Safety

10 Jan 2017

Twenty years ago, Mr. Mike Simpson was the Santa Fe Drilling Manager for the BP Amoco’s Andrew Platform and is credited with having the idea for Time Out For Safety.  Although this simple and effective safety concept was originally conceived for drilling operations within six months it was adopted by the entire platform and today is considered an integral application in many successful safety cultures across a multitude of industries.


“So, you want to design and build one of the smallest drilling facilities in the North Sea, crew it with 2/3rds of the normal drilling personnel, commence well tie-back operations on pre-drilled wells just over a week from the single-lift installation of the integrated drilling, production and accommodation deck, and drill each successive platform well in a progressively complex and technically demanding manner to maximise recovery from the field, oh and without hurting anyone!”

This was the Design, Build, Install, Commission and Drill challenge my boss ‘volunteered’ me for back in 1994, when the BP Andrew1 project was a blank sheet of paper.  This was no ordinary project, and at first sight the team of which I was to become an integral part looked and behaved like nothing I had ever experienced before. Quickly indoctrinated into their mind-set of delivering the exceptional I put my weight behind the teams’ project promise of small rig, small crew, big performance.

As the team ‘driller’ my involvement in the project extended through the facilities design, build, installation and commissioning stages, into pre-operations and onto the drilling and completion stages of well delivery.

As the steel was taking shape during facilities construction my mind became increasingly preoccupied with the team of people that were to become a drilling crew like no other. Clearly a quite different approach would be required if the crew were to perform well in an environment of constant challenge and concern arising from an intensive workload in an unfamiliar format and with minimal on-site support.

A unique solution in the form of ‘Rigmen’ to replace the traditional profile of roustabouts, floormen and derrickmen would match the crew capability to the work to be done, however to perform as an effective self-reliant unit on an offshore drilling rig in the North Sea the crew also needed a new work approach that stimulated and sustained the kind of attitudes and behaviours required to deal constructively and effectively with challenges and concerns on the spot.

The drilling crew shared the view that any program to effect the required behavioural change had to be easy to understand and use, require little or no paperwork, be non-commercial, and have the utmost level of visible management support. And so Time Out For Safety (TOFS) was born.

In a leadership driven safety culture TOFS encouraged and supported every crew member to simply, proactively and safely intervene with the work at any instant they sensed a better, safer outcome could be achieved. TOFS made a significant contribution2 to the drilling crews’ successful performance in the projects well delivery. In addition its merits as a simple yet effective behaviour modification program were recognised and its use quickly spread across the oil and gas industry and into other industries.

20 years ago TOFS made a difference on the BP Andrew project because of an exceptional leadership culture that was driven by a passion for safety. I witnessed first-hand how a liberated, empowered and motived operations team could deliver something truly exceptional, and the lessons learned have been applied in some form on all of my work endeavours since.

Fast forward 20 years to the present day and TOFS is an integral part of who we are at Cansco. In our approach to work we build support directly into the operational line, placing the right tools, knowledge and skills at the fingertips of those doing the work. Complementing this mix TOFS facilitates the best, safest possible outcome of each work activity by engendering a constructive attitude to learning and development at the work place. This approach is the backbone of our CAN DO competency system for our operational personnel. Accreditors of the Cansco CAN DO system have remarked on its industry leading features. To quote a colleague, “in transforming our work areas we have created a truly exceptional learning environment where, as it happens, work also gets done”. 

There is a reason we have no Safety job position at Cansco. Safety, like quality, is an integral part of the operational line.  TOFS, and our passion for doing the right thing well, will help us keep it there, and help us deliver the exceptional time and again.


Mike Simpson



2 Behaviour modification programmes: establishing best practice - HSE