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Hearing the message

Specific measures to reduce the risk of hearing damage caused by noise have been sought by the PSA for years. Norway’s petroleum industry has now joined forces to overcome this problem – finally

This article was published in the magazine "Safety - status and signals 2011-2012"

The oil companies and the industry as a whole launched a major campaign in 2011 to do something about noise and vibration problems in their operations.

Called “noise in the petroleum industry”, this initiative has been established as a tripartite collaboration between companies, unions and government – and has ambitious goals.

“Obviously, we have great expectations for this project,” says Sigve Knudsen, discipline manager for the working environment at the PSA.

Studies will cover area-wide noise, point sources like hand-held tools and helicopters. Work will also be done on barriers such as screening, insulation and new types of ear protectors.

“The most important aspect of this project is that it represents a collective effort by the industry to find solutions,” says Mr Knudsen.

“It will address some of the most important challenges presented by the risk of hearing damage, and collectively seek to reduce noise exposure for employees.

“Many noise-related challenges must and will be solved by the individual player. That’s the level at which the damage occurs, and where the greatest responsibility rests. But a broad and coordinated approach across the industry is extremely important.”

Although the PSA has been monitoring the industry’s work on reducing noise hazards for years, progress has so far been unsatisfactory.

Although much is known about this issue, the measures adopted have not been good enough to reduce the risk of hearing damage for personnel.

The PSA has been conducting a campaign both directly through audits focused specifically on this issue and indirectly through a priority commitment to groups exposed to particular risk.

As a result, the authority had accumulated extensive documentation by the beginning of 2010 on noise problems in the industry.

PSA director general Magne Ognedal, as chair of the Safety Forum which brings together companies, unions and government, challenged both sides of the industry to unite on the issue.

That led in the spring of 2011 to a first joint draft of what was to become the new noise project – a commitment which is heartily welcomed by Mr Ognedal.

“The Storting [parliament] has determined that Norway’s petroleum industry will be a world leader for health, safety and the environment,” he notes.

“And the industry has signed up to that ambition through the Safety Forum. So it’s very gratifying that its interest organisations are now joining forces on this important work.”

“The industry says that it wants to exploit its user position to help develop new technology and alternative work processes through this project,” Mr Ognedal notes.

“That’s very gratifying. A broadly-based commitment is the right way to ensure that tomorrow’s workplaces in the industry do not cause health damage which can destroy employee lives.”