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Ministry personality bids farewell

After more than 20 years working with safety and working environment in the petroleum industry in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) (and the safety department in the "old" NPD), department director Marianne Stein leaves the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion to become a fulltime lawyer.

An era is over as the person with by far the longest ministerial tenure in safety and working environment in the oil and gas industry says her goodbyes to become a lawyer in Gjøvik, not far from her home town, Raufoss:

Stein has been a driving force behind both the last and the upcoming Storting White Paper on Health, Safety and Environment in the petroleum industry. She has had a central role in the formation of the Safety Forum and has seen many ministers come and go. And let us not forget, she has been witness to "her" Ministry changing name a whopping five times, most recently from the "Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs" to the "Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion".

General approach priority 1
"There have been many major challenges for both the industry and authorities in this period. One of the milestones, in my view, is the expansion of the PSA's authority to include onshore facilities."

"Early on, we in the Ministry noticed the interface between offshore activities and the onshore facilities, and the advantage of having a comprehensive approach to the petroleum activity in order to handle the risk of major accidents. We also got political approval for this," says Stein, and refers to the Resolution by the Crown Prince Regent in Council, 19 December 2003.

She adds that the expertise the PSA has acquired as regards the risk of major accidents should also be exploited in associated areas, such as following up future thermal power plants.

HSE White Paper with clear messages
Stein was central in the work which led to the first ever Storting White Paper on Health, Safety and Environment in the petroleum industry, Storting White Paper No. 7 (2001-2002).

"The basis for the HSE White paper was that the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) was asked to prepare a Storting White Paper on the petroleum activity on the Norwegian shelf. The White Paper described an industry in which challenges connected to high costs were given the most attention.

In that regard, it was important to make the safety challenges in the industry visible. A separate chapter on safety and working environment issues was therefore added to the MPE White Paper," says Stein.

"The HSE aspect was discussed in the Storting, which resulted in the Storting requesting a separate White Paper on Health, Safety and Environment in the petroleum industry."

This started the work on Storting White Paper No. 7, which has since been used as a reference document to describe the HSE challenges faced by the industry and the authorities, including proposals for measures.

Reached a consensus on HSE
"The main objective of the HSE White Paper was to present a situation report on the HSE conditions which all parties involved could agree on. This was a challenge, as the parties disagreed strongly in the late 1990s; while the employers believed the situation had never been better, the employees claimed the HSE situation was deteriorating."

The Safety Forum was established in 2001 to initiate, discuss and follow up on current safety and working environment issues. The Forum, in which managers, HSE personnel and centrally placed decision makers among the industry players and the PSA participate, was also central in the White Paper work.

"Through the HSE White Paper, and not least the process of using the Safety Forum as a reference group, we achieved a consensus on the HSE situation on the Shelf," says Stein, who has participated in the Safety Forum as an observer since it was established.

In addition to describing the situation and the challenges facing the industry, the White Paper became very focused on measures. This formed the basis for a number of studies in the last few years, on such topics as exclusion, employee participation and commitment to research and development (HSE Research).

"Has the HSE level improved since the last HSE White Paper?"

"Giving a clear-cut answer here is impossible. It is positive that the number of undesirable events has fallen in the last few years. On the other hand, there have been individual incidents which could potentially have become a major accident, and the development in work-related illness indicates room for improvement."

"In any event, I am convinced that the HSE level would have been poorer today had it not been for the process with the HSE White Paper. It became a useful tool for identifying challenges and knowledge gaps, as well as for implementing measures to reverse a negative development," says Stein.
She adds that the report contributed to increasing awareness of the balance between the risk of major accidents, which is an integral part of this industry, and the working environment aspect which is important to prevent strain injuries.

New HSE White Paper ready soon
During this coming spring, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion will send another Storting White Paper on Health, Safety and Environment in the petroleum industry to the Storting.

"The new HSE White Paper will have a different focus. This time, we put more emphasis on describing the risk situation, with an in-depth look at the major accident situation and the interface between offshore and onshore facilities. In addition, the theme work-related illness and exclusion will be discussed thoroughly.

"The White Paper will conclude that the HSE level is high, but that the industry still has room for improvement," says Stein.

The report also describes how a rapid technological development leads to a situation where the operational and organisational issues in the industry do not necessarily follow the shelf boundaries.

"It is important that the PSA stays at the forefront of the development here, identifying challenges and developments before they are in place, organising itself so that the supervisory authority is updated on developments," says Stein.

Although both her new profession and place of work will entail great changes both professionally and geographically, Stein hopes to stay in touch with the oil and gas industry.
In that regard it is no coincidence that her first task in her new job would be to participate in the conference "Oil and gas - possibilities for the Inland", which opened on 8 March at Raufoss.