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Minutes from Safety Forum meeting no 5/2011

The chemical project and the industry’s newly launched noise programme were key issues on the agenda for the Safety Forum’s meeting of 16 November 2011, along with evacuation systems, international work in the wake of the Macondo accident, White Papers and the R&D strategy for HSE.

Members of the Safety Forum updated each other on the many current issues being pursued in the arena, and the PSA also provided a status report on serious incidents in the industry since the previous meeting.

Tripartite collaboration to reduce working environment risk
The noise issue has been on the Safety Forum’s strategic agenda since 2009 – partly on the basis of the trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) process, which has documented a disturbing trend for hearing damage.

Through extensive and prioritised audits as well as seminars and information activities, the PSA has challenged the industry to make a collective commitment to reducing the risk of hearing damage. The industry’s commitment through the tripartite noise in the petroleum activity project was presented by its project manager to the Safety Forum’s members. The project is headed by a management committee drawn from industry, unions and government, and a number of sub-projects have been established to work on such aspects as area noise, self-generated noise, helicopter noise, barrier checks, subsea, vibration and “vulnerability factors”.

The ambition for the project is that the petroleum sector will be a pioneering industry for HSE results, that noise exposure offshore and at land-based plants will be under control and within the regulatory limits, and that objective criteria will be sought which can indicate that the risk of future hearing damage has been reduced.

A number of the Safety Forum’s members are directly involved in the work, and the unions in particular expressed disappointment that not all the key associations on the employer side participate directly in the project.

Chemical health risk has been on the Safety Forum’s agenda since its foundation in 2001. After four years of work, the project on the chemical working environment in the oil and gas industryis coming to an end even though a number of activities will continue in 2012. The project manager provided an extensive update of the history of the commitment, its ambitions and results, and the need for continued work. The PSA director general/Safety Forum chair emphasised that all players must now focus their attention on implementing and operationalising new knowledge, methods and technology in the area.

Evacuation systems making progress
With reference to the lifeboat project pursued by the industry since 2005, a number of the Safety Forum’s members expressed concern about davit-launched lifeboats and about training with and use of evacuation chutes. The forum chair noted that a course of action has been adopted which aims to have regulations in place before 1 January 2015 to meet the intention of safe evacuation in all circumstances. He also referred to work currently under way to achieve this goal, and expressed his expectation that everyone will contribute to this important work. With regard to evacuation chutes and rafts as supplementary equipment, he also emphasised that everyone must know how to use these. Issues related to training will continue to be pursued with the network for safety and emergency training (NSOB).

In the wake of Macondo
Extensive work is being pursued among players in the industry through various international and national fora in the wake of the Macondo disaster. The background for the 2011 conference organised by the International Regulators’ Forum(IRF) was the Macondo and Montara blowouts. Following the conference, a good overview has been acquired of many initiatives being pursued by various organisations and nations, such as the OLF, Ospar, the EU and a number of others. The IRF’s strategic agenda comprises four areas, and work on these is continuing. Norway is responsible through the PSA for work on the barrier issue, including further progress with design/technology for increasing the reliability of blowout preventers.

With regard to the European Commission’s commitment to regulating safety in the petroleum industry, the North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum (NSOAF) has played a role in the consultation process. During the meeting, the forum chair/PSA director general referred to a draft regulation from the EU, currently under consultation. He emphasised the importance of a broad commitment by all players in the industry to ensure that experience is incorporated in this work, and that a best practice is developed. The members of the Safety Forum gave their support to a broad commitment to this important work.

Indicators and signals
The Safety Forum has allocated time to reviewing overall indicators provided for players in the industry by the White Papers on working life (In Norwegian) and petroleum (In Nowegian).

Where the petroleum White Paper is concerned, particular reference was made to the chapter on the cost level and profitability with reference to the report of the IOR expert committee  (In Norwegian). The government is appointing an expert committee (In Norwegian) which will identify and illuminate obstacles restricting rig capacity on the NCS.

The working life White Paper provides a number of indicators which affect the petroleum industry in particular.

  1. Norway’s petroleum sector will remain a world leader for HSE.
  2. Changes in the player picture – where certain serious incidents and negative trends call for special attention.
  3. A broad review of regulatory strategy and regulations is planned.

   The following aspects were identified as central to the work of the Safety Forum:

  • collaboration between companies, unions and government, with employee participation both locally and centrally (including a reassessment of employee participation in the licences)
  • continuous improvement (including learning lessons from serious incidents and accidents)
  • evacuation solutions (ref the agenda item on these)
  • the level of activity and the player picture (including factors affecting opportunities for contractors to manage risk)
  • safe producing life extension (including maintenance management)
  • risk factors in the working environment (including noise, the chemical working environment and ergonomics)
  • major accidents and international collaboration (ref activities being pursued through the IRF and the NSOAF).

These are all issues which the Safety Forum has had on its agenda, but the parties need to prepare for their continuation and for debate on indicators and signals at the next meeting of the Safety Forum.

R&D and strategies for the future
A representative from the Research Council of Norway (In Norwegian) reported on the Petromaks programme and the work under way on drawing up a strategy for research on HSE. The latter forms one of nine areas in Petromaks. The Research Council is in the final phase of its strategy process, and companies, unions and government are involved through an expert group drawn from all three parties. Despite a very short period for consultation, the members of the Safety Forum were invited to submit their suggestions on the strategy.

Outstanding issues
The theme for the Safety Forum’s annual conference and the Safety Forum as an arena for collaboration are both important issues which will be progressed at the next meeting of the Safety Forum.