Trust the History

With a reputation for quality and high standards, Shell’s safety culture has helped to shape a 30-year career.
Viva Energy technicians inspect the Geelong Refinery.

From the first oil refinery to fuelling the first commercial QANTAS flight, Shell has a proud history of innovation to support Australian industry. It was that reputation for quality and high standards that first drew Darren Evans, Viva Energy Logistics Contract Lead to the company.

It’s rare these days to see someone clock up three decades with the same employer. This year Darren celebrates 32 years with a business that has been operating in Australia for more than 120 – firstly as Shell and now as Viva Energy.

From hands-on driving and maintenance to transport analysis, planning and contracts, Darren has seen the transport business from all sides.

“It was considered the place you wanted to work, the top of the tree for a driving job. I was getting promoted in another job, and I gave Shell one last phone call before I committed somewhere else,” recalls Darren. “I was straight off five years of driving stock crates, and a bit of a country bumpkin in Sydney.”

Since getting his start as driver, Darren has worked to the same high standards across transport analysis, planning, operations and contract management. The high standards on the job lived up to Darren’s expectations of safety and process.

“I’d come from an operation where I did all my own maintenance, so from a driver’s perspective, it was brilliant,” he says. “The role with Shell was in a highly regulated, well equipped environment with safety standards. It was like a breath of fresh air.”

Viva Energy workers at the North Shore of Corio Bay.

 

Impressed by the Shell approach, Darren was keen to learn more in the fuel space. When Shell shifted away from owning its own fleet, Darren moved from driver to supervisor before he settled into operations based in Townsville.

“Townsville was great for learning all the different aspects of the industry,” he says. “I worked in tank farm operations, ship to shore, you name it.”

The safety culture at Shell which has now transferred across to Viva Energy where Darren works, and the community that grows around it, is a big part of what has kept Darren still learning across new roles.

“Safety is hammered into you from the start. It becomes part of your thinking in everything you do. Community builds around us, looking out for each other, doing our jobs to a high standard, so that everyone stays on course and goes home safely,” he says. “The company ethics and ethos align with mine. The commitment to safety, commitment to people and the desire to do the right thing are all part of it.”

Darren says people with an aptitude for workplace health and safety policies and processes are well suited to the safety culture of companies like Shell and Viva Energy.

“We don’t do shortcuts,” he says. “It’s not worth the risk to break the rules in this business. The consequences are pretty significant if you get it wrong.”

Even through the immense technological changes of the past 120 years, some things don’t change — Shell still aims to proudly lead industry standards according to Darren. Although he says working to Shell’s standards can be a challenging change for new suppliers.

“The standards we set and the expectations we have can be a significant culture shock. Ultimately, many improve their businesses by meeting the standards we insist on,” he says. “We still lead the pack with standards. We’re part of a forum working to standardise carrier processes across industry.”

With great experience across business areas and also driving commercial vehicles, Darren plays an advocacy role for drivers. Experience in the driver’s seat helps inform decisions that prioritise health and safety.

“It can be difficult to teach people, if you haven’t done it. It’s a tough, specialised gig. You need an appreciation for what you’re asking from a driver to do if the job involves 1000km running on dirt,” he says. “We can’t automate the entire industry, it’s not like backing onto a dock and machine loading. Between process and policy, we need to take care of the people making this all work.”

A driver refuels at the refinery.

One of the initiatives is no-fault incident investigation which helps to focus on the bigger picture of where an incident or error fits into the supply chain.

“It can be quick in the industry to point the finger at the individual at the end, the driver,” he says. “But what else is going on? It’s taking that blame game away to understand the cause of the issue.”

Staff like Darren, who boast such long histories, have spent their careers with the industry and see how important relationships are with suppliers and within the workplace. He recognises the challenges of bringing the right people in, training them to the right standards, and keeping them in the industry.

“When you get the right people together, operating with the same ethics, it’s a great group of people to work with,” he says.

“People trust Shell brand. From the strong network of servos across the country to the quality fuels and lubricants. Because they’ve been around a long time, they have earned a good reputation,” says Darren. “It’s that simple. People value the longevity of a brand and the quality of the products they sell.”

Send this to a friend