The PSA’s main issue for 2019 emphasises where responsibility for safety rests in the industry – with the companies. But it also signals greater vigilance by the supervisory authority.
Safe, strong, clear
Clear messages are being sent to the industry by the choice of Safe, Strong and Clear as the main issue. In addition to the division of responsibility, it highlights the requirement for continuous improvement in the level of safety.
The Storting (parliament) considered the White Paper on health, safety and the environment (HSE) in the petroleum sector this June.
“It found that Norway’s offshore safety regime is robust and well-functioning, and should be maintained,” observes PSA director general Anne Myhrvold.
“At the same time, the White Paper called for a stronger and clearer PSA. That’s something we take seriously. A strong supervisor is a cornerstone of the Norwegian model.”
“We’ve now reviewed our practice, and decided that we need to make clearer use of our toolbox,” she emphasises. “That covers the choice of supervisory methods, use of enforcement powers and more checks to ensure the industry is correcting nonconformities.”
Myhrvold admits that the PSA could have underestimated to significance of intervening early and clearly enough in demanding conditions.
“I hope our current study of the Goliat, Aasta Hansteen and Ivar Aasen projects on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) will identify good lessons for both us and the industry.
“The Storting also has clear expectations of the industry, that it will emphasise collaboration between employers, unions and government and continue to seek continuous safety improvements.
“’Good enough’ isn’t good enough. The ambition is that Norway’s petroleum sector will be a world leader for HSE. That goal remains unchanged.”
The main issue for 2019 is therefore also a clear order to the industry, Myhrvold says. “Both sides are duty-bound to help fulfil this ambition, both separately and collectively.
“It’s up to the companies to ensure progress. They’re the ones who have and must accept responsibility for the prudent conduct of operations at all times.”
Noting that the PSA has seen examples where the companies have not shown such this responsibility, Myhrvold characterises this as unacceptable.
“The companies must respect the regime, know their role and get to grips with safety issues. They must work methodically to reduce risk, prioritise safety and ensure continuous improvement.
“We’ll be working in the time to come to make responsibilities clear. The PSA will strengthen its supervision, the companies will ensure progress.”
Responding to the challenge
Key elements in the PSA’s main issue for 2019 concern the duties of employers and unions, where responsibility lies, and the demand for continuous improvement. Three key decision-makers give their views on these aspects and on the expectations they involve for the companies.
Arne Sigve Nylund, executive vice president, development and production Norway, Equinor:
"I think Safe, Strong, Clear is a very good issue, which we in the industry can support. It provides perspective, not least on our need for good and strong supervision which helps us improve."
"It also addresses our need to be clear in our message on safety, and to continue developing the sector in order to make it robust for meeting the future."
"Management must be unambiguous about what we want and expect in terms of culture and the use of procedures and governing documentation. We mustn’t cut corners, and need to communicate expectations clearly."
"The main issue fits well both with the PSA’s mandate and with Equinor’s goal of being a predictable, safe and robust operator."
"We have a general desire to raise the level of safety and ensure that everyone comes home at least as healthy as when they went to work."
"This is the main ambition for us all – government agency, operator, union official or safety delegate. We have slightly different views on the approach, but that’s the ultimate goal."
We’ve pursued a number of measures in Equinor. One example is the campaign we’ve called “I am safety”, which focuses on the personal responsibility each of us has for safety.
"And the “life-saving rules” are simple but important guidelines for the way in which we plan and execute work operations in a safe manner."
"We’ve also introduced an annual “wheel” with quarterly topics, where people work on avoiding hydrocarbon leaks, dropped objects and personal injuries, and on improving our working environment."
"It’s important to pursue these issues over time, so that the organisation gets the opportunity to mature and implement activities which have lasting effect."
Kristin F. Kragseth, CEO for Vår Energi.
"Safe, Strong, Clear comes across as very natural for our company, and actually for the whole industry."
"This is about being unambiguous as managers and pursuing a dialogue with all employees to build a strong team which works well together. The elements in the PSA’s main issue for 2019 could have been values in our company as well, and in virtually all the others."
"The point at issue is how we as an operator can be clearer in everything we do, and how the authorities can make unambiguous demands on the operators."
"How can company managements become more lucid, so that everyone in the organisation understands what we mean? It’s easy to believe our employees know they have the duty – and the permission – to push the stop button. But have we communicated this clearly enough?"
"When we read in the RNNP study that a number of employees believe production comes before safety, or say they take shortcuts because they want the job done, we haven’t made it sufficiently clear that this isn’t positive."
"I think everyone can take note of the main issue and formulate it to be meaningful for each individual. I see, for example, that documentation was much more extensive and complicated before."
"On newer installations, such as Goliat, they have a greater degree of process flow in their procedures, which makes everything clearer."
"Getting the message across is an art, and you must by all means say things in different ways to ensure that it’s understood correctly by everyone."
"I believe we need more straight talking from regulators, but they must also be willing to listen to the industry. There’s no one truth."
"This is an industry which has developed on the basis of dialogue and collaboration, and it’s therefore important to pose open questions and to invite answers. One party doesn’t necessarily own the truth while the others have got it wrong."
"We’ve occasionally felt that the actual audits could be carried out differently. Then we must dare to speak out, and the PSA must be open to our views."
"That allows us to avoid a culture of fear, and we can be open and honest about what we do and think. I believe the PSA would also appreciate that. We want to help each other to improve."
"I don’t think the PSA has been weak. It’s been very hands-on, and we as operator companies have taken note of what it’s had to say."
"We often say we’re Norway’s most important industry. Everything we do also attracts public attention, for better and worse."
"During my 26 years in the industry, it’s the tripartite collaboration and the open dialogue which have made the difference."
"Daring to tell the PSA or my employees what I think, while getting honest responses back – that’s how we get better, with openness, honesty and respect for each other. We don’t always agree, and that must be acceptable now and again."
Frode Alfheim, president, Norwegian Union of Industry and Energy Workers (Industry Energy)
"I think Safe, Strong, Clear hits the spot in relation both to where we are today and to where we want be, in any event for a good many years to come."
"The big interest in investment on the NCS will mean that we’ll be busy dealing with the new companies which will be coming in, as both operators and licensees."
"I find that the PSA has maintained a tight grip and is good at keeping tabs on what the companies are up to in downturns. My union’s had to sound a warning, and I feel we’ve been listened to."
"This industry’s never on an even keel, after all – it’s either full steam ahead or into rapid reverse. We’re on an upturn at the moment, and I think that some players will be testing the limits in the regulations. So it’s important to be strong and clear and to make sure that things are done safely."
"The companies have money, but the challenge will be to get all this onto a track which is secure, safe and well-founded."
"We see that the industry’s reputation is weakened after a downturn. The parties must take responsibility for ensuring that the upturn happens in a proper way."
"Provision must be made for good recruitment to the industry, which needs to come across as responsible – with permanent and secure jobs for young people."
"We can’t start rushing off again without actually applying the recommendations in the Engen report and the White Paper to the Storting [parliament] this summer."
"The work which has been initiated in the Safety Forum must also be completed. We’ve got to see things through and do the job in a good and proper manner."