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Minutes of Safety Forum meeting 1/2010

Central issues on the agenda for the meeting of the Safety Forum on 26 January included the status of the work on a new, joint emergency response centre for the smaller operating companies and HSE preparedness in the northern areas.

_blank Agenda

The Safety Forum is the central arena for cooperation among the parties in the industry and the authorities as regards health, safety and environment in the petroleum activities on the Norwegian shelf and on land.

Safety Forum

As always, the meeting had a tightly packed agenda with a number of other key issues. A status report was provided for all ongoing items and for serious incidents during the last period. Safety and working environment challenges associated with the use of ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) in the industry were also discussed, along with a number of other issues.

Emergency preparedness to handle hazard and accident incidents
The operating companies must have effective emergency preparedness and the necessary competence to handle hazard and accident incidents. The emergency preparedness includes both technical, operational and organisational aspects. The chair of the board and general manager of the Operator Association for Emergency Response (OFFB) reported on the status of the work on the recently opened emergency response center  for the smaller operating companies.

The intention is to satisfy the regulatory requirements for emergency preparedness through cooperation on planning, organisation, experience and further development of expertise. Through this cooperation, the companies will be able to develop and maintain good crisis management and emergency expertise in the companies.

One of the employee organisations had also submitted an issue memo which particularly addressed safety and working environment challenges in the northern areas. Several issues concerning emergency preparedness were raised, and the industry was encouraged to take the lead in an overarching project to secure an HSE standard in accordance with the Norwegian regulatory requirements, also in the northern areas.

The PSA briefed the meeting on the status of the so-called Barents 2020 work, which is an important part of the Government's strategy for the northern areas, and a continuation of work originally started in 2006. A number of task forces have been established where the PSA contributes to the work of harmonising the HSE standards. The safety authorities have 15 years of experience and insight gained through cooperation with Russian authorities through the so-called BORIS project.

How to move from problems to best practice?
With regard to challenges for catering employees, the Safety Forum has been involved in this topic for a number of years. After the bipartisan cooperation on the "Lift for catering" project came to a halt, it is particularly the authorities' audit of the catering activities and recent years' follow-up of groups at risk that have been a frequent topic for status reports and information in the Safety Forum.

On this basis, several members pointed out the importance of getting started on concrete actions – also through the IA work (IA = Inclusive Working Life), with a view towards expulsion for this group. A tripartite cooperation has been established as regards the topic of IA through a collaborative project between the PSA and NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service), and there are high expectations for this work.

A lack of commitment to competence and employee participation have been recurring topics in the Safety Forum as regards catering staff and other groups at risk. The need for dedicated, research-based efforts was pointed out, while others pointed to the existing knowledge. It's time to find solutions. Minimum staffing is not a recognised solution, but it was noted as an option if the problems could not be resolved in some other manner. A best practice for contract strategy in the area was called for, under the direction of SfS (Samarbeid for Sikkerhet). OLF and the PSA director emphasised that this requires that all key federations are represented in SfS.

The working hours project PUSSH, in which three R&D communities will work together on a major project, has experienced start-up problems. Both the three parties and the industry are in a dialogue with the researchers to resolve the challenges and arrive at a joint platform for industry backing and progress.

Both the chair and members of the Safety Forum constantly emphasis the importance of learning across company and sector boundaries. Once again, one of the members on the employee side referred to the extensive knowledge found in the aviation industry and research communities as regards the use of lubricants in aircraft engines, which is also used in the petroleum industry – and to the serious health and safety issues they represent. At the same time, it is difficult to see how this knowledge is put to use and followed up in the form of actions.

HSE challenges in the grey zone
Safety challenges related to the use/operation of ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) were raised by one of the employee organisations, and they have also been discussed with the supervisory authorities in a separate meeting.

A number of specific problems were raised, including factors related to competence/social dumping, working hours/working hours schemes/rest periods and accidents. Use of ROVs for critical maintenance tasks and confusion and grey zones with regard to the authorities' responsibility were also flagged as challenges. Reference was also made to the uncertainty surrounding access to emergency response resources during crises. This was proposed as a topic for the ongoing work on the Storting White Paper, as well as a topic for the authorities' regulatory work.

The parties were expecting a study from the PSA which, together with the memo from the workers' federation – and the debate in the Safety Forum, would be a good basis on which the industry could carry on the debate in its own bodies.

HSE priorities 2010
While the authorities, represented by the PSA, have published their priorities for 2010 on the net, the federations reviewed their own priorities for 2010. With this backdrop, the secretariat will conduct a review of the Safety Forum's own priorities and consider the potential need for re-evaluation.