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Minutes of Safety Forum Meeting 3/2009

Measures for progressing the Inclusive Workplace (IA) efforts in the industry, status of the lifeboat project and the working hours project (PUSSH) were the central topics of the meeting on 10 June, along with the problems of noise, serious incidents, preparations for a tripartite seminar on employee participation and a summary of the Safety Forum's annual conference.

Annual conference - new perspectives and great commitment
The members summed up the annual conference, Life & Learning, which took place on 9 June, as a successful event with good dialogues and new perspectives transcending industry boundaries.

Several members emphasized that the conference has developed into an important social and professional arena, in which further efforts should be made to involve operative managers and employees. Many good, personal stories particularly touched, inspired and challenged participants. Link to more conference details.

The IA agreement – intentions and reality
The status of IA efforts in the industry is that the work being done varies widely between the parties, among the various players in the industry, throughout the industry, as well as in the Norwegian workplace in general.

The PSA and NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) have carried out a seminar relating to facilitation offshore, which showed that there is still a long way to go between intentions and reality in this area. Now these agencies wish to make further progress in IA in the oil and gas industry, inviting the parties in the Safety Forum to cooperation, initially in a meeting to discuss the most important challenges.

This will also be in accordance with one of the main conclusions from the review of the IA agreement, carried out by SINTEF Teknologi og samfunn. Here, they point out that "if the IA agreement is to be extended, then more goal-oriented, differentiated work is needed on sector and industry-specific strategies for all of the partial goals".

The lifeboats – again
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association reported on the status of the project for the further development of conventional lifeboats, including design verification with regard to lowering and deployment propulsion, in addition to maintenance, training, operational and technical expertise as well as evacuation philosophy.

The ambition has been to complete the work as of 20 June, but several of the members of the Safety Forum pointed out that although much good work has been done, there are still unsolved problem areas which should be the object of further discussion in the industry. The members await the final report, and the project will receive continued follow-up, along with OLF's work on free-fall lifeboats.

Working hours - safety, health and performance
The National Institute of Occupational Health, STAMI, has previously presented the framework for a project which can provide more knowledge about how working hours schemes affect safety, performance and health. There was a desire to review the research literature and implement measures in the industry, based on a prospective study of about 5000 people offshore and on land.

Since the University of Bergen has also scheduled a study of shift work, sleep and health and since the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) will also be carrying out a qualitative study on work and private life, a collaboration has been established for a joint project: the Petroleum Study of Shift Work, Sleep, Safety and Health, with the Norwegian acronym PUSSH.

STAMI gave an account of this work, in which they are preparing a questionnaire containing a little over two hundred questions, and they also wish to link in RNNP data and will be cooperating with the PSA. Some companies have indicated their interest in being involved; and several contractors with over one thousand people have already joined.

Research circles want to establish a reference group, based on the parties in the industry, through the Safety Forum, which can follow up the project over a period of time and serve as a discussion and advisory group.

The Safety Forum gave its support to the establishment of a group which can continue to discuss and clarify the issues.

Noise – still a cause for concern
With reference to the results from RNNP, the alarming development as regards noise damage was reviewed and discussed from the perspective of the authorities, operators and contractors. The PSA assumes that there is a low rate of reporting due to underreporting from the contractors. At most 60% of contractor employees receive an occupational health examination.

An important part of the PSA's strategy in this area is to support good projects and contribute to learning from these. The employer organisations in the industry take a serious approach to the problem and the industry has established guidelines (OLF No. 114) and an electronic tool for noise risk assessment, StøyRisk (NoiseRisk), has been developed in addition to internal company projects and various campaigns.

At the same time, the authorities have noted through the RNNP work that the companies' programs of action for permanent installations are generally poorer than those which have been established for mobile installations, where a more active noise follow-up regime is in place. Noise will be an area for active follow-up on the part of the Safety Forum.

Serious incidents
Several serious incidents were reviewed under this heading, but the accident in which a scaffolder fell 14 metres and died, obviously received special attention. As the case was being investigated by the PSA and was also the object of a police inquiry, caution was exercised with regard to any statements about the cause of the incident.

Please refer to the PSA's website for updated information

Participation – new perspectives
Employee participation has been a central topic of the Safety Forum right from the beginning in 2001. This topic has been discussed and considered in two Storting white papers on HSE in the petroleum industry and through a separate joint committee composed of the parties.

While codetermination is a topic for a separate joint committee at the national level, the PSA has initiated its own project based on the Safety Forum. The Safety Forum and the PSA have also been invited to attend one of the committee meetings to give an account of experiences from the oil and gas industry.

The PSA will arrange an open conference to be held in its offices on 2 September, titled Empowerment or Powerlessness?

As regards the pilot projects for employee participation in the licences, established in the wake of the Storting white papers and the joint committee, there was a failure in follow-up/implementation. Nevertheless, the companies involved, StatoilHydro and Shell, did not wish to re-establish the pilot projects.

Through OLF, they expressed instead a desire to continue to pursue established, well-functioning arenas of cooperation, even though this means that there will not be an opportunity to evaluate a solution involving employee representation in licences.