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Balanced chemistry

”In the ongoing debate on use of chemicals in the petroleum activities, we see that the consideration for the external environment receives far more attention than health effects for people. I am concerned with balancing the chemical choices we make with both the external environment and health”, says Siv Janne Aarrestad, HSE manager in M-I SWACO and one of OLF’s representatives in the Safety Forum.


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.

Safety Forum

Siv Janne Aarrestad has many years of experience with the oil and gas industry. With aquaculture and cleaning technology as her areas of expertise, and experience from different operating companies and businesses within the chemical field, she brings a solid foundation to her job as HSE manager in M-I SWACO.

”It has been useful in terms of the big picture perspective, having worked so much in relation to the external environment before I went from being a consultant to having a more overall responsibility for HSE. In particular, it was exciting to participate in developing the Chems database (Chemical Management System), as an employee at the KPD center (Chemical Product Data) in Stavanger.

 After a few years as a consultant, she started at M-I SWACO in 1998, as HSE manager for Scandinavia. Two years later she also took on responsibility for quality, thereby becoming the HSE-Q manager. Today she is the head of the HSE-Q North Sea Geo-market with country managers in the UK, Denmark, and Finland who report to her functionally, in addition to a staff of six in Norway.
M-I Swaco has roots extending back to the US in 1939. The company was established in Norway with the purchase of Anchor Drilling Fluids in 1996 – and from 1 September 2010 will be a part of Schlumberger.

Visible leadership
Your own role in a leadership perspective?

“I take part in two leader groups in M-I Swaco, one for the North Sea and the other for Norway as a whole. Visible management that is enthusiastic in the different work places is essential for understanding the industry and for the trust between management and skilled professionals. We therefore regularly visit workshops and businesses around the country, and the management is involved in both the systematic HSE work and the safety delegate cooperation.”

“As HSE-Q director, I am part of our Working Environment Committee (WEC) and I work closely with our senior safety delegate (HVO), who is a very enthusiastic and capable person. The HVO plays a very central role in the work of increasing knowledge and enthusiasm regarding HSE in the company.

Strong roots
M-I-Swaco is an international company and you have worked across various offshore provinces. Could you say a few words about management and cooperation in this perspective?

”The labour unions are strong in all countries in Europe, and they have their appropriate place in the businesses. At the same time, I have experienced that cooperation and communication patterns and forms can vary greatly from country to country. To me, it seems that joint and tripartite cooperation is more strongly anchored in Norway than in most other countries. The tripartite cooperation in our industry, and particularly in the Safety Forum, is something I view as quite unique.

“Personally, I have viewed the six months that I have been a part of the Safety Forum as both educational and useful, both with regard to work managed by the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF), but also in relation to my own work as HSE-Q manager. It is easy to communicate across organisations and functions, and there is a good and open atmosphere characterised by mutual respect between the parties.

The fact that the arena is led by the PSA director and operated by the agency also provides a unique opportunity to communicate with the authorities.

The art of balancing
Do you have any areas of particular concern when it comes to challenges in the HSE area?

“In our industry there are many considerations that need to be taken and balanced against each other regarding chemicals in the working environment. Those of us who work with HSE-Q have a particular responsibility to contribute to the company having good risk management in the chemical area, where we ensure that the health-related consequences are balanced with the consideration for technical/operational performance, as well as the external environment. In the public debate on the chemical area, we see that the consideration for the external environment receives far more attention than the consideration for health effects on people. My goal is therefore to balance the chemical choices to protect both the external environment and health.”

“Even though both the authorities and the industry itself have made a strong commitment to the chemical area through the chemical project www.olf.no/kjemisk in recent years, we must acknowledge that the industry still faces considerable challenges. We are therefore working with several areas at the same time to ensure that we have safe, good workplaces and that we are in compliance with laws and regulations.

Prevention and the big picture
How, specifically, are the chemical challenges being handled?
“The prevention perspective is completely central. This regards factors surrounding risk assessments of chemicals, exposure situations, classification, labelling and substitution. On the system side out in the field we are working through audits, risk assessments, maintenance and through systematic work tied to permits, discharges, storage, labelling and documentation.”

“We do most things ourselves, both because we want to retain our own expertise, but also to make sure that we know the activity and the risk conditions on the different facilities. This provides us with a good understanding of the whole picture. At the same time, we obviously rely completely on our cooperation with the operators to develop equipment/technology and framework conditions which ensure that our employees have a completely sound and responsible working environment.”

“We consider ourselves an important part of the petroleum activities and we are devoted to contributing to reduce the overall risk in these activities. My own company was hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in April of this year, as two of our employees were among the fatalities. This has affected all of us deeply. The catastrophe has reminded us of how important it is that we always work systematically and deliberately to build knowledge of the risk factors in our activities, so that we can manage this in a comprehensive manner.

Many roles
Siv Janne is a former active volleyball player at the professional level. She is currently a coach and referee for the same club, Austrått. Berry-picking mountain hikes and ski trips during the winter were big parts of her childhood, with parents who loved the outdoors, and who still play an important part in her daily life. As a mother of children aged 14, 11 and nine, who all play volleyball, handball and are in the school band, there are many different roles and tasks to handle.”Yes, my life is both exciting and busy, but with healthy kids, family close by and a husband who takes on more than his share at home, I am lucky to also have balance in my private life”, she concludes.