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Audit of helicopter deck and emergency preparedness on Balder

During the period 17-18 January 2006, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) conducted an audit of ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Norway AS' Balder FPU facility, in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The audit targeted the helicopter deck and emergency preparedness. Based on our findings during the audit, we have issued a notification of order to ExxonMobil.

Balder FPU

Balder FPU (Source: ExxonMobil)

Background for the audit

The background for the audit is that the PSA, with expert assistance from the CAA, has prepared a joint plan for several audit activities in 2006, with primary focus on helicopter decks and emergency preparedness.

The audit activity was carried out on the basis of Sections 11, 20, 21 and 22 of the Management Regulations, Section 71 of the Facilities Regulations relating to helicopter decks, ref. Regulations relating to flying on the continental shelf - commercial aviation to and from helicopter decks on fixed and mobile offshore installations, BSL D 5-1, and the Activities Regulations, Chapter XI-I general emergency preparedness requirements, Section 68 relating to handling of hazard and accident situations.

Purpose of the audit

The purpose of the audit was to verify that ExxonMobil's management system safeguards HSE and emergency preparedness in connection with prudent operation of the helicopter deck. The supervisory authorities also wish to prevent aviation accidents that can be attributed to properties or operation of helicopter decks.

In the review of the management systems, emphasis was placed on organization, expertise, maintenance, handling of nonconformities and improvement, based on operation of the helicopter deck and central emergency preparedness measures associated with the helicopter deck.

As regards emergency preparedness factors on the facility, focus was on rescue equipment, evacuation equipment, evacuation routes, marking of evacuation routes and the emergency response organization, including training completed and drills held, as well as the emergency response competence of the personnel assigned to handle such incidents.

Result of the audit

During the audit, we identified several nonconformities in relation to the regulatory requirements. We also noted factors where there was room for improvement.

The result of the audit is based on safety rounds, interviews and conversations held with employees and the safety delegate service on board, observation of emergency response drill, inspection of the facility and documentation received.

The nonconformities mainly relate to the man-over-board preparedness (MOB), where there was inadequate training and drills, and how the MOB preparedness was organized in relation to redundant systems. With regard to the evaluation system for personnel working on the aft part of the facility, this was deficient in relation to the guidelines that were described by ExxonMobil, and did not comply with current regulations.

We also identified some factors that were implemented in the organization, but that had not been updated in emergency preparedness plans and other documentation. This particularly applies to the emergency number 112, which had been introduced on Balder, but was not updated in the emergency preparedness plans.

A safety round was conducted immediately after the audit team arrived on board, during which necessary rescue and evacuation means were pointed out, in the event of an incident on the facility. The quality of the safety round was good and informative. All personnel newly arriving on Balder, including the PSA and the CAA, were issued orange helmets to highlight that these persons were not familiar with the facility. This is a positive measure.

An emergency response drill was conducted in relation to the helicopter deck. The audit team observed the drill both outside on the helicopter deck and inside with the emergency response management in the CCR. The team then participated in a summing up meeting in the cinema after the drill. The drill was well-implemented and comments regarding this were provided in the summary meeting by the PSA and the CAA.

An inspection round was carried out with an observer from ExxonMobil to look at emergency response equipment, marking of evacuation routes and other safety marking. There were no observations that indicated violation of the regulatory requirements.

With regard to technical aviation aspects, these are commented on in our report, as well as in a separate report from the CAA.

Based on our findings during the audit, we have issued the following notification of order to ExxonMobil:

Pursuant to Section 19 of the Activities Regulations relating to Competence, ref. Section 21 relating to training and drills, ref. Section 20 relating to training in safety and working environment according to the Working Environment Act, ExxonMobil is ordered to develop a system to ensure that personnel working on the aft part of the Balder facility acquire the competence necessary to evacuate the facility with Lifeboat No. 3.
Pursuant to Section 21 of the Activities Regulations relating to training and drills, ref. Section 68 relating to handling of hazardous and accident situations, ExxonMobil is ordered to implement measures to upgrade the MOB preparedness

  • through increased frequency of training and drills

  • to remedy lack of competence (refresher courses)

  • by practicing primary and secondary MOB preparedness in nearly the same manner.


We have asked ExxonMobil to submit any comments it may have concerning the notification of order by 10 March 2006.

Link: Explanation of the terms "order" and "notification of order"

The company has corrected the conditions that caused the notification of order to be issued. An order was therefore not issued.

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Ole-Johan Faret
Press Contact
Telephone: +47 40 22 42 17