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Inadequate knowledge of risks

In 2013, much of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway's work on groups at particular risk was aimed at groups in drilling and well activities, with an emphasis on mobile facilities. One of the conclusions of this work is that the companies possess inadequate knowledge of risks.


In 2013, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway focused attention on how operators, drilling contractors and well service companies interact to detect, map and assess risks, and how they implement preventive measures for groups at particular risk. The results from this audit activity show how important it is that the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders are clearly defined and understood.

"The picture that emerged was one of great variation. Some of the companies perform risk assessments and use these as decision support for measures, while a number of companies have problems complying with the management requirements", says PSA principal engineer Eva Hølmebakk.

A specific audit activity brought together groups consisting of operators, drilling contractors and well service companies.

The groups were assigned the task of

  • mapping their working environment
  • assessing risk and subsequent risk-reduction measures
  • evaluating how different framework conditions might impact risk and risk management.

In all, eight operators, eleven drilling contractors and eleven well service companies participated in this broad-based activity, including small companies which had not previously had contact with the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.

"It is a fundamental precondition of good management that the risk picture is understood. Regrettably, this audit activity showed that there are considerable deficiencies in the companies' abilities to draw the map that they need to guide their management", says Hølmebakk.

According to her, the smaller well service companies have greater problems with diligent risk management than well-established drilling contractors. This fact is insufficiently taken on board by the operating companies which have overall responsibility for monitoring regulatory compliance.

"We are somewhat surprised that the operators were not more actively involved in the partnerships, since they are more experienced in monitoring groups at particular risk than the other participants. They also have more resources. Many of the operators did not mobilise their own expert groups and they made no assessment of the other companies' work. Nor could they point at follow-up activities within this area that they had performed in execution of their supervisory responsibilities", says Hølmebakk.

"It was however a positive sign that the operators identified weaknesses in the flow of risk communications between the participants and wanted to take steps to improve this situation."

Risk framework
Odd Rune Skilbrei, the PSA's supervision coordinator for mobile facilities, points out that special framework conditions apply to this aspect of the petroleum activities.

"On the mobile facilities, there are many parties who need to cooperate in confined areas and for brief durations. Many of the groups are nomadic in nature. They move about and do not work permanently on one installation. In HSE activities, they represent both a strength and a weakness. Nomads can be a useful resource in that they may spot conditions on a facility that others have become blind to. But following up and reducing the risks nomads are exposed to is difficult and requires interdisciplinary cooperation", says Skilbrei.

"We see a potential for improvement in terms of understanding the relationship between the different framework conditions and how these may affect risk and risk management", he says. 

Many of the contracting companies highlighted pressure of time due to equipment and facility downtime as a negative factor. Skilbrei is committed to making the companies aware that key performance indicators which solely reward productivity may have a negative impact on the risk picture.

"It can be too easy to shunt responsibility down the organisation and refer to it as "individually perceived time pressure"."

In 2014, the PSA will be following up the companies' work on groups at particular risk with a series of audits onboard the mobile facilities.

Responsibilities – mobile facilities

Operators

  • Responsible for qualifying the facility for the location and operation in question.
  • Responsible for well planning, drilling programme, choice of drilling mud and chemicals associated with the well operation.
  • Responsible for qualification and choice of service companies and follow-up thereof. In the regulations, it is the supervisory responsibility (section 7 of the Framework Regulations) that primarily describes this obligation.

Drilling contractor

  • Owns the facility and holds the Acknowledge of Compliance (AoC) issued by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.
  • Often has an agreement with the operator to be the principal enterprise. This entails a coordinatory responsibility for OHAS vis-à-vis the other companies on the facility.
  • The drilling contractor is usually the employer of most of the employees on the facility.

Well service company

  • Usually has a contract with the operator.
  • Is the employer of personnel and responsible for own work and equipment, and for having qualified knowledge concerning associated risk factors.