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Director-general Magne Ognedal at ONS: Managing major accident risk calls for collaboration

A well-functioning collaboration between government, unions and employer organisations is essential for managing risk in the petroleum industry, according to Magne Ognedal.

The Safety Forum is the central arena for cooperation among the parties in the industry and the authorities as regards health, safety and environment in the petroleum activities on the Norwegian shelf and on land.

Read more about the Safety Forum

Frode Alfheim (IE), Magne Ognedal (Ptil) og Gro Brækken (OLF) under Sikkerhetsforums pressekonferanse
Frode Alfheim (IE), Magne Ognedal (PSAl) and Gro Brækken (OLF) at the Safety Forum's ONS press conference.

The director-general of the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) was speaking at a press conference held by the Safety Forum in Stavanger on 24 August.

“Although the Norwegian petroleum industry has ambitions of being a world leader for safety and the working environment, we must acknowledge that the oil and gas industry is associated with substantial risk,” he pointed out.

“At the same time, it is my experience that openness and dialogue are essential for success in overcoming the challenges we face.”

The Safety Forum is the key collaboration arena between employers, unions and government with regard to health, safety and the environment in the Norwegian petroleum sector, offshore and on land.

The press conference was intended to present the differing perspectives of the PSA, the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) and the Industry Energy (IE) union on major accident risk in the petroleum business.

Mr Ognedal, OLF chief executive Gro Brækken and Frode Alfheim, head of IE’s industry policy department, also sought to inform the international media about their tripartite collaboration.

In his speech, the PSA director-general emphasised that the industry itself – and each player in it – must serve as the guarantor of acceptable activity.

This must be achieved through integrated management of risk and the necessary expertise and capacity.

A special responsibility rests on company management, Mr Ognedal noted, and pointed out that the PSA has given special priority over the past three years to following up management’s contribution to reducing major accident risk.

That duty rests both on the companies’ own need for risk management, particularly with regard to major accidents, and their obligations as licensees.

In order to secure control over risk and to prevent accidents, he said, it is also very important to learn lessons from earlier incidents.

“We must never forget the past and the dearly-bought lessons learnt by employees, their families and the whole industry from major accidents in the oil business.”

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrated how important it is for company managements to know about and have an overview of the major accident risks associated with their operations at all times, Mr Ognedal emphasised.

One condition for the success of management efforts to learn from serious incidents is collaboration in one’s own organisation, across licence groups, with all the players in the value chain, and through employee participation at every level.

“The tripartite collaboration does not free employers from responsibility, but Norway’s regulations which allow a safety delegate to halt hazardous work are unique,” said Ms Brækken.

Mr Alfheim, who represented all the unions participating in the Safety Forum, emphasised that tripartite cooperation assumes strong and representative employee organisations and employer associations, which act when serious risk conditions are indentified.

“We will learn from other countries’ continental shelves where major accidents have occurred,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a fact that disasters like the one in the Gulf of Mexico occur in nations without established tripartite fora such as those we have in Norway.

“Our conviction is that such collaboration between all three sides in the industry is essential for managing the major accident risk in this business.”