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Noise - the companies do not comply with requirements

During 2010 the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has carried out a series of audits related to follow-up of noise injury risk. Both operators and contractors have been included in the activities. The results from the audits show that the industry is still not working satisfactorily with noise reduction.

Large groups of NCS workers suffer daily exposure to excessive noise, with many subject to more than 90 decibels over a12-hour shift.

So the risk of noise-related hearing damage in the petroleum industry is not negligible. In many cases, ear protectors alone provide a weak barrier between cause and effect.

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The audit activities related to follow-up of noise injury risk were carried out between April and June. Nonconformities in relation to the regulations were proven in all audits.

Among other things, the audits identified:

Two of the audits resulted in orders.

Read more: No more deaf ears

Passive players
Ola Kolnes, who heads the Petroleum Safety Authority's work within noise, is disappointed in the condition.

"The companies are too passive in their approach to noise reduction," he says and points to the fact that the audit activity has given the Petroleum Safety Authority considerable insight into the potential for technical noise reduction, which the companies have not taken advantage of.

The PSA has followed up the industry's work on noise risk over a number of years. The development has not been satisfactory. In spite that there is considerable knowledge, good measures are not implemented.

The entire industry
Last autumn the PSA carried out several audits directed towards groups exposed to risk (GER). The audit included several players, both operators and contractors.

The focus of these audits was, among other things, noise, and the findings from these audits are to a large extent concurrent with the nonconformities and improvement items the PSA has now identified in the audits of follow-up of noise damage risk.

Together with other documentation, these audits confirm that the challenges related to noise not only apply to single players, but are pervasive for the entire petroleum industry.

Contractor groups
The Petroleum Safety Authority's work on groups exposed to risk also points to the risk of noise injuries and emphasises in particular the high risk within contractor groups and their use of handheld tools. Ear protection in combination with work time restrictions is the only risk-reducing measure. Personal protective equipment is a weak barrier and there is considerable uncertainty associated with the actual degree of protection.

In general, comprehensive documentation is available, based on mapping and risk assessments, but few technical measures are planned and implemented to reduce the risk of noise injury. For the contractor groups, the use of hand tools is an important source of noise exposure, which is only covered to a lesser degree by risk assessments.

Robust measures in short supply
Since 2004 the risk of health damage associated with noise exposure has been measured through the surveillance program RNNP (Risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activities). The annual reporting from the operators and shipping companies have shown weak improvement.

In connection with the presentation of RNNP 2009 in April of this year, the status of work on noise risk was deemed disappointing.

"The risk associated with noise exposure is known and noise conditions have been mapped. Thus, there is great potential for noise-reducing measures. What's lacking is action in the form of good, risk-based measures," said the PSA's director for professional competence, Øyvind Tuntland.

Read more: Risk level development in 2009

Ola Kolnes asks the companies to be attentive in this year's RNNP reporting.

"The companies themselves helped develop this improvement indicator, and we expect the companies to have an active relationship to reporting so that the trend development can be followed for the individual unit, for the company and for the industry in general," he says.