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HSE improvement requires tripartite cooperation

The tripartite cooperation established in the petroleum activities in Norway is unique in both a national and international perspective. Continued good cooperation between the authorities, employee and employer organizations is also a precondition for reaching the Government's goal of the Norwegian petroleum industry leading the world when it comes to health, safety and environment (HSE). This was stated at the annual conference of the Safety Forum, which was held in Stavanger.

This, the fifth annual conference under the direction of the Safety Forum, gathered more than 220 professionals, key employee representatives, managers, politicians and the press. The conference was held on 14 June, with the title "Oil & gas - one industry, many realities". The goal of the conference was to highlight different perspectives on the HSE status in the industry.

Comprehensive HSE concept
The HSE White Paper presented by the Government in April of this year formed the backdrop for the opening address that was to have been given by Minister of Labour and Inclusion, Bjarne Håkon Hanssen.

However, the Minister had to cancel at the last minute, and the Government's message was presented instead by the Ministry of Labour and Inclusion's (AID's) director general, Gundla Kvam.

The Minister confirmed that the HSE concept in the petroleum activities is quite broad, and covers both the traditional working environment as well as technical and operational safety in a high-tech industry.

Challenges related to safety are even greater in a sector where technology, methods and forms of organization develop rapidly.

"It is thus crucial that we have flexible, accessible and competent fora such as the Safety Forum, the Regulatory Forum and Working Together for Safety, where the parties continuously contribute to the safety aspects of these developments," said Kvam on behalf of the Minister. She also emphasized that this comes as a supplement to the individual responsibility of all participants, and the supervision activities that target the industry.

In addition, the importance of continued successful tripartite cooperation was cited as one of the criteria for success that can lead the petroleum sector towards the Government's HSE objectives.

"The Safety Forum represents an organization of employers and employees which this Government feels is a good example. Here the authorities, employees and employers can meet to set guidelines for how the industry develops.

What have we learned - and what have we forgotten?
The sequence entitled "From Kielland to Snorre - what have we learned?" put HSE work into a 25-year perspective.

Director of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and leader of the Safety Forum, Magne Ognedal, pointed out the importance of asking not just what we have learned - but also what we have forgotten when we talk about HSE in a 25-year perspective.

"People often question the basis for regulations in specific areas, and why we have different regulatory requirements.

It would seem obvious then to ask whether people remember the Aleksander Kielland accident, the Sleipner A breakdown and the Snorre accident?

What about the other major accidents, the fatal accidents and serious personal injuries? Here we must ask ourselves what is the most important learning we can take away from these catastrophes and accidents," Ognedal emphasized.

Investigations and studies following the Alexander L. Kielland catastrophe on 27 March 1980 showed, among other things, the importance of making comprehensive evaluations of all dangers that can lead to failure of structures, buoyancy or stability.

"These are factors covered by risk analyses. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that risk analyses in this area are often superficial and do not provide adequate overall knowledge," said Ognedal, who also referred to the Sleipner A breakdown on 23 August 1991:

"One of the things we learned after the investigation was that there had to be a technical manager in the projects, someone who had the competence, time and capacity to make independent evaluations of calculations. Is this the case today?"

~LT~P>The gas blowout on the Snorre A platform on 28 November 2004 was just slim margins away from ending in a catastrophe, and the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway's investigation report uncovered 28 serious violations of the regulations.

"Here too, the lessons learned have been extensive for all of the involved parties. Both Statoil's and our own investigation report uncovered deficiencies in relation to planning, procedures and evaluations in a number of areas.
It is a challenge to ensure that we capture the lessons learned, and ensure the availability of necessary competence in a time when many very experienced people are now retiring or can no longer work in the industry.

"What are we doing to hang on to the knowledge and the competence of our experienced employees?

What does it mean when we see that an increasing number of 57/58-year-olds are leaving the oil industry?

Regulatory development
In his presentation, Ognedal underlined that the regulations form the basis for learning, both from best practices and serious incidents.

"We strive to include what we have learned from major accidents, near-accidents and investigations of these, together with experience gained from comprehensive audits of the players in the industry, into the HSE regulations.

These regulations undergo continuous development, in a dialogue with the parties in the industry," said Ognedal.

"However, we have to ask ourselves if the industry understands the importance of the knowledge that is incorporated in the regulations. It is essential that knowledge and experience do not remain in the respective enterprises or parts of the activities, but are rather included in the work on the regulations and expressed through laws, regulations, codes and standards," the PSA director pointed out.

  • Presentations and papers are available in Norwegian (Link)