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Information policy: Openness is a virtue

Being open is both a means and an end at the PSA. So there is nothing wrong with the industry’s opportunities to learn from others.


The www.psa.no website has developed into a central and much used source of data, directed primarily at the Norwegian and international petroleum industry.

But the information it contains is also aimed at a number of readers and users with a general interest in this business. The PSA’s most important goal for its website and other information activities is to contribute to experience transfer and building knowledge on safety issues in the oil and gas sector.

All consents and acknowledgements of compliance (AoCs) issued, and all audit and investigation reports from the PSA, are published actively on the website.

Known collectively as “supervision on the web”, this part of the site forms a cornerstone of the agency’s communication with the world at large. See tthe facing page for figures and details.

In addition, current articles about industry-wide professional issues are constantly being written and published electronically. Other information made available on the web includes presentations and papers from the PSA’s professional seminars, given by oil companies, suppliers, scientists, regulators and so forth at home and abroad.

Interest

Almost all the documents flowing in and out of the PSA’s main electronic archive are open to the public – and interest is high. Access to 2 604 documents was sought in 2009, with all but 76 applications approved. The number of such requests is rising sharply, and was up from about 1 200 in 2008.
 
Part of the explanation could lie in Norway’s expanded Freedom of Information Act, as well as growing awareness of the PSA’s openness, responsibilities and available material. Promotion of the principle of greater access to information by the central government and the desire by the Storting (parliament) for an even more open civil service may also be a factor.

The freedom of information principle ranks moreover as a central pillar of the new communication policy adopted by the government in 2009. At the same time, many inquiries directed to the PSA archive        over the past two-three years have clearly related to the legal actions brought by Norway’s pioneer offshore divers.

Requests for documents in this period have been on a surprising scale. Diverrelated materials weighing well over half a tonne have been released, and a lorry was hired on one occasion to carry papers from Stavanger to Oslo.

Share

Verbal information provided by the PSA to the media also reflects a desire to share knowledge and contribute to a general understanding of the petroleum industry.

The PSA’s information policy states that “information to the industry, the media and the public at large will be characterised by openness, accessibility and honesty, reflecting the special position occupied by the oil and gas industry in the Norwegian community”.

This ambition also reflects practice at the agency – with very few exceptions, all media questions put to it receive an answer.
 
Benefit

The basic view of the PSA is that sharing information is a benefit which contributes to greater safety, understanding of the industry’s challenges and knowledge of the professional assessments which underpin petroleum activities in Norway.

In other words, openness benefits the companies, the workers and society – in the very broadest sense.

By Inger Anda