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Minutes from Safety Forum Meeting No. 2/2009

The program for the Safety Forum's annual conference and an account from the National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) on important work environment challenges in connection with chemicals, were among the issues discussed at the Safety Forum's meeting on 26 March this year.

by Angela Ebbesen

Live & Learn – The Safety Forum's annual conference - 9 June 2009

Live & Learn will be the theme of the Safety Forum’s annual conference to be held in Stavanger 9 June this year – the basis being ”learning” in the very widest sense of the word.
A draft program was discussed by the Safety Forum's members. Central players and premise providers, such as Øystein Michelsen, StatoilHydro, Steinar Våge, ConocoPhillips Norge, Victor Norman, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration and Director General Gundla Kvam, AID, Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, will give speeches.

Moreover, the Snorre accident will be used as a case study in discussions regarding robust organisations and robust work practices. The economic crisis will naturally form the backdrop for most of the issues and challenges facing our players, and learning will also be discussed in connection with management roles and challenges.
The response from the members was positive. They also requested input from the employees and an organizational psychology perspective on learning. Please also see the PSA's website for direct registration.

Chemical health risk - research status
The National Institute of Occupational Health, provided expertise who gave an account of the work being done to provide a coordinated system for occupational medical studies of persons who may have suffered health injuries after chemical exposure in connection with offshore work.

Based on experiences including the joint recording activities among offshore patients, the occupational medical departments have agreed to introduce a common patient registration system for all patient groups from 1 January 2009. There will be annual reporting from the new patient register, and plans are underway to make data available through the national monitoring system for working environment and health (NOA).

Based on discussions in the Safety Forum as far back as 2002, and Dagbladet's series on the so-called "toxic oil case" in spring 2003, as well as the subsequent involvement of politicians and the authorities, several activities were implemented by the authorities, industries and expert and research communities.

Research Director Pål Molander of STAMI gave an account of the facts related to exposure to organo phosphates in hydraulic oils and their potential toxicity. He referred to allegations in the media that around 25-30 people have been affected, but pointed out that these are undocumented allegations.

STAMI receives frequent requests to "deal with the matter" both from those who are affected, from labour unions and to some extent from certain players in corporations/the industry - and from the press. Molander pointed out that this must first and foremost be the employers' responsibility, and that a follow-up would require coordination at the industry level with contributions from a number of players.

STAMI wanted to come back to the Safety Forum with a letter outlining any further follow-up, provided this was anchored in the oil and gas industry.

For more details, please see the Minutes and presentations in the right hand column of the Safety Forum's website.

Exposure to mercury and possible health risks was on the agenda as the last item in the discussion of the chemical working environment. Both the PSA and STAMI provided information about the status for the oil and gas industry.

The attention as regards mercury today is concentrated around deposits in the process systems. The mercury issue is also relevant for ongoing projects in the industry, and will be further demonstrated through these, one example being StatoilHydro's project regarding risks related to components in oil and gas streams.

Of the approximately 5000 urine samples from personnel, there are, however, very few with elevated levels. ConocoPhillips has been particularly active in mapping, preparing procedures, training and organising urine sampling. In 2007, Gassco and Statoil took the initiative for an industry conference to exchange experience and discuss risks and possible actions.

STAMI gave an account of the status for this issue, and the report "Kvikksølvmålinger hos ansatte med tilknytning til oljebransjen" (Mercury measurements in employees connected with the oil industry), which sums up the U-HG measurements per year for individuals and work places on land and offshore, was submitted to the Safety Forum’s members.

Interaction, lessons learned and participation

These were key words for a number of issues on the Safety Forum's strategic agenda for this meeting.
The PSA also provided information on details relating to the Safety Forum's meeting with the Danish Offshore Sikkerhedsråd (Offshore Safety Council), a tripartite body under the Danish energy board, Energistyrelsen. The meeting will take place on 17 September 2009 in Copenhagen.

The cooperation project between the PSA/the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation NAV/the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority for realization of the IA agreement also for offshore employees through facilitation of the work, was discussed in light of the previous all-day conference in the PSA on the same issue.

Considerable time was also set aside to look into serious incidents which have occurred since our last meeting, with a view towards learning and capturing lessons learned.

Quality and ownership was the background for establishing the new advisory committee under RNNP adopted during the meeting.

A working group was also formally established during the meeting to assist in getting information on the Safety Forum and its strategic issues out to the media.

Participation and co-determination are core issues in the work of the so-called "Medbestemmelsesutvalget" (the co-determination committee), which will be concluded with an NOU report by 1 March 2010.

Several of the Safety Forum's members pointed out the importance of including the oil and gas industry's experiences from partner cooperation and participation in the committee's work. 

Contact has been established between the PSA's project managers to initiate further work on participation processes in the oil and gas industry. Audits and case studies show large differences in participation practices depending on position the petroleum industry: operator/supplier, central/local, large/small company, etc.

Not everyone feels that they have influence over their own work situation, are able to contribute through their professional competence, have influence over or are allowed to contribute on issues important to health, working environment and safety.

The PSA has seen the need to take stock of how the institution of participation functions. As a first step, the PSA wants to organise a seminar. This initiative was supported by the Safety Forum, which will be involved at natural milestones leading up to such an event.

Contact in the PSA:
Angela Ebbesen, technical secretary in the Safety Forum
E-mail: angela.ebbesen@ptil.no