Case Study


ExxonMobil had an 80% reduction in people getting hurt from the Safe Choice program pilot. Mel Cowan co-designed the Safe Choice program that has since been run for 55,000 people in 30 Countries.


ExxonMobil were building the first major oil platform (Hebron) in Canada in 20 years to an ambitious deadline. They were trying to meet this deadline whilst delivering world class safety with a novice and high-risk tolerant workforce. The platform was to be constructed by workers from the local community who either had no prior construction experience or who had worked on domestic projects with much lower safety standards.

This target population had a ‘high risk tolerance’ approach given the nature of life and work in Newfoundland with six months of the year at -20 Celsius and the high-risk primary industries of forestry and trawler fishing. There was a lot at stake as it was a 17 billion USD project conducted in the harshest of environmental conditions and being driven by a non-negotiable deadline for modules arriving from Korea.


Mel Cowan was a co-creator of the Safe Choice program that was purpose built to engage this high-risk tolerant workforce to make safer choices whilst working remotely in dangerous conditions. The program was innovative as, for the first time, it provided workers an understanding of how they and their colleagues make decisions and how that impacts their safety.

The program was unique in that it involved engaging individuals to reflect how their state of mind and biases shape the decisions they make. The program also embedded training in the workplace by including three post-training coaching sessions for each worker and a detailed sustainment plan for each site supported by a global network of Safe Choice practitioners.


The safety outcome from the Safe Choice Hebron project was an 80% reduction in people getting hurt. Due to this success, over the next 4 years, ExxonMobil rolled out the Safe Choice program to over 55,000 people, in 30 countries and in 10 languages.

A recent global review by ExxonMobil of the Safe Choice program identified that the program had a major impact in building worker engagement in Safety and has led to significant reductions in workers getting hurt. One of the most successful aspects of Safe Choice has been the ownership of the program by the individual sites. A vibrant global Community of Practice has been created that uses local innovations of Safe Choice concepts to engage their site populations to deliver world class safety performance. Safe Choice has twice won the Global Offshore Safety Award.


“Mel’s work in designing, conducting and building sustainment for the global Safe Choice program has been world class. The care and skill he has demonstrated in building the internal capability of ExxonMobil leaders, safety professionals, local trainers and coaches will have a sustainable long-term positive impact on ExxonMobil.”

Vice President