Mission to make working lives better

Twenty-five years on, the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 people lost their lives, still serves as a lasting reminder of the highly hazardous environment of  the oil and gas industry.

Statistics from a recent report commissioned by the HSE and published by Oil and Gas UK, state that the offshore oil and gas industry is continually performing better than many other dangerous industrial environments, achieving 35% better performance.  

However this statistic does not come easily, and should not leave anyone with the impression that there isn’t still hard work to be done to sustain it and continually improve. It takes leadership and passion at all levels of an organisation to build on these figures, helping to eliminate risks within the highly hazardous environment.

Paula Paterson, client manager at behavioural change consultancy Optimus Seventh Generation, makes it her mission every day to do just that.

She said: “Every day for me is about making a difference. I make it my personal goal to make people’s working lives better, whether this is by building their confidence or developing specific skills and competencies, which in these environments will keep them safe.”

Paula has 13 years’ experience in learning and development, having started on her career path after graduating from the University of Aberdeen with an MA Hons degree in Sociology. This focused on the development, structure and function of culture and society, and the behaviour of those within it, as well as studying psychology and gender studies as part of her degree.

Following this she spent six years as a business processes and systems training advisor at House of Fraser, a national role responsible for 61 locations looking after 16,000 employees. She was responsible for the design, development and delivery of retail business process and IT systems training, as well as a coaching role on sites.

From here, Paula moved to Aberdeenshire Council, where her passion for making a difference continued. After spending just under two years as an employee development officer, she became a health promotions officer to the employees within the council.

In this role, Paula promoted health and wellbeing, while supporting the council in winning the Healthy Working Lives bronze award.

However, it was her desire for making a positive difference through people which led to Paula joining Optimus Seventh Generation in 2003.

Paula’s first role when she joined Optimus Seventh Generation was a behavioural trainer, then after two years she was promoted to a training manager, accountable for the training function, designing the workshops and supporting the training team in delivering to  the clients’  expectations.  

In her current role as client manager, she is responsible for managing projects  including overseeing the Culture of Care diagnostic, and devising and managing the execution of the intervention plan.

The Culture of Care diagnostic has been designed by Optimus in collaboration with an organisational psychologist to measure the level of care and safety within each individual organisation.

She said: “Optimus is a behavioural safety consultancy that supports clients in being able to implement positive and sustainable improvements through the application of care – an ethos   I feel   passionately about, and have practiced throughout my   career.

“We believe that focussing on care as an input, through people, process and equipment, delivers increased performance in safety and reliability.

“Every employee has the right to feel protected and valued within their organisation, especially highly hazardous environments such as the oil and gas industry. It is unacceptable to me that in 2014 there are still incidents and accidents that are avoidable. It is vital that the intervention we provide is supported by leadership and fully engaged with by staff on  all levels.  

“Making a difference is at the core of everything Optimus does with Seventh Generation coming from the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois League which states: ‘In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation to come’.

“Our role is to make the difference now, but for it to be a legacy – so  the positive impact is sustained into the future.”

Paula’s next steps involve growing through Optimus. She is currently being mentored for her  next role as client partner, which will see her become responsible for developing the business further, finding new business, supporting current clients and continuing her goal in making a positive difference every day.

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