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Know much about, but must do more for groups exposed to risk

The industry must make a greater effort to identify groups of employees who are exposed to risk, and to a greater degree focus on how various external conditions - for example, working hours schemes and contractual issues - affect risk.


Only to a limited degree are such external conditions seen in the context of other exposure factors, such as noise and vibrations, chemicals and work under rough weather conditions.

These questions were raised and the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway directed its attention to these issues at the seminar on groups of employees who are exposed to risk on Thursday, 4 December.

Much knowledge, must do more
“We know that the industry has much knowledge about risk, but must to a greater extent develop a comprehensive picture of risk for various groups in the industry. The companies must ask themselves whether there are risk factors they do not see, what can be done to reduce the negative consequences of external conditions, and how they see working environment factors both individually and as a whole," said principal engineer Irene Dahle from the PSA.

Dahle gave an account of the PSA's observations of trends and so-called risk profiles. "In audits we have challenged the companies to identify which work operations their workforce is involved in, which risk factors there are in connection with the work operations of the group, which external conditions the group is working under, and the significance of the interaction of several exposure and risk factors," said Dahle. "Focusing on groups gives insight into the interaction of risk factors," she added.

Surface treatment workers exposed
Several databases, such as the Registry of personal injuries and the RNNP (Risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activities) contain information about groups exposed to risk. These make it possible to develop common variables for, for example, groups of job types and companies. It is also possible to search across these  databases and develop risk profiles for groups of employees.

“We see that surface treatment workers is particularly exposed to risk. This is the group which is most exposed to noise and chemicals. This group also has major ergonomic challenges, and protective gear is often the only barrier to health hazards. In relation to noise, 23 percent of the surface treatment workers in the questionnaire survey of RNNP (2005) stated that they are fully or partially hearing impaired. By comparison, 14 percent of other disciplines reply in the affirmative to the same question," Dahle said. In the Registry of personal injuries, surface treatment workersare rather conspicuous: While this group amounts to just three percent of the offshore workforce, surface treatment workers account for six percent of the personal injuries. On other hand, the injuries are not defined as serious.

Several audits
In the course of 2008, the PSA has carried out a series of audit activities directed at management of the working environment, and how the companies identify and follow up groups exposed to risk.

This has revealed major differences between contractor employees and operating company employees," said Dahle. The contractors systematically end up worse, in relation to various management elements such as identification and follow-up of work-related illness, and development and follow-up of measures. (Read more about these differences in a separate article)

She concluded by listing a number of conditions which must be in place, if the companies in the petroleum industry are to ensure that all groups have a safe working environment:

Regardless
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway expects the industry to identify groups exposed to risk regardless of employer and position in the contract chain. The groups must be followed up in keeping with the principles for, and the requirements related to, HSE control. The companies must manage and ensure, and view working environment factors individually and as a whole. They must also develop a better understanding of what impact external conditions have on risk, and implement measures which reduce negative effects," concluded Dahle.

Among those who gave presentations, Associate Professor Preben Lindøe of the University in Stavanger described how framework conditions can have an impact on risk. Division Director Steinar Aasnæss from the National surveillance of working environment and health (NOA) gave listeners a national perspective, dealing with knowledge about the working environment and health for various groups. Safety Delegate Ørjan Solheim from Schlumberger gave a description of what has the largest impact, from the vantage point of safety delegates. All presentations are listed in the link box.

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
 
Irene Dahle
E-mail:  irene.dahle@ptil.no

Inquiries from the media:
Kristin Hoffmann
E-mail:  kristin.hoffmann@ptil.no
Tel:  +47 51 87 62 19