The petroleum activities are high-risk activities in which errors can have serious consequences. A clear connection between fatigue and accidents has been proven in other sectors, and this risk factor is very important on the Norwegian shelf, not least due to the fact that many older installations have achieved significantly longer lifetimes and different types of utilization as compared with the original plans for these installations. The activity level on these installations has also increased during periods, such as during specific work campaigns.
The questionnaire survey carried out in connection with the risk level project in 2003 showed that a significant number of employees and supervisors offshore have various sleep problems. The responses from the more than 8500 offshore employees who participated in the survey also indicated a definite connection between frequent cabin-sharing on certain installations, and the degree of sleep problems there.
"There is little reason to believe that other risk factors than noise and disturbances in connection with sharing cabins vary between the different installations," says Magne Ognedal, Director-General of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.
Need for clarification
The requirement for prudent operations is a long-standing precondition, and it is founded in both the (Norwegian) Working Environment Act and the Petroleum Act. As a consequence of developments in the industry, a clarification of the authorities' expectations regarding rest and restitution was needed in the regulations that entered into force on 1 January 2002.
These clarifications included the requirement that employees must be ensured necessary restitution and rest (Section 31 of the Activities Regulations). The authorities emphasized that this means that personnel must be able to sleep without disturbances and normally alone.
Solutions in relation to restitution and rest must also be viewed as an integral part of the measures to achieve an improved safety level on the Norwegian shelf. The topic was also discussed in connection with Storting (Norwegian Parliament) White Paper No. 7 (2001-2002) on HSE in the petroleum activities. Among other things, the Storting's standing committee on municipal affairs emphasized the importance of ensuring that personnel can sleep alone and that this must be followed up by the supervisory authority.
Subsequently the former Minister Victor Norman stated to the Storting that orders instructing companies to implement measures could be the result if the companies themselves did not implement the necessary improvement measures to safeguard the rest and restitution requirement.
Dialogue and cooperation
During the course of 2002 and 2003, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate developed an enforcement practice that was to form the basis for the authorities' follow-up of the requirements. Identical letters were sent to all licensees on the Shelf, and a number of meetings were held with the various parties in the industry. On 1 January 2004, the PSA assumed this responsibility and continued this practice.
For installations that were approved before the new regulations entered into force on 1 January 2002, and which did not satisfactorily accommodate the rest and restitution requirements, we requested that the companies draw up plans to improve the situation/fulfill the requirements in a more long-term perspective.
We asked the companies to consider factors such as present and future activity level, potential technical and organizational solutions, as well as risk-related and financial consequences. Most of the operating companies have established good processes and have found solutions for their installations in cooperation with the employees.
This has also contributed to good results: