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Minutes of Safety Forum meeting 3/2010

The Deepwater Horizon accident was a key topic at the meeting of the Safety Forum held on 17 June this year, along with legal assessments of the ROV issue and employee participation in tender processes.

Serious incidents in the period were also reviewed, along with a number of issues related to safety and working environment which are continuously monitored by the Safety Forum.

Deepwater Horizon in a Norwegian perspective
Director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) and head of the Safety Forum, Magne Ognedal, underlined the gravity of the catastrophe in which 11 people lost their lives. At the same time, he pointed out that drilling in deep water is one of several factors, but that the greatest challenge is related to the subsea blowout. He referred to the PSA’s work to follow up this accident to learn and to find answers to questions, in part based on the six investigations initiated in the USA. See the PSA’s website for details http://www.ptil.no/presserom/deepwater-horizon-oppfoelging-i-ptil-article6887-33.html . The Safety Forum’s annual conference, which addressed the major accident perspective and what can be learned in light of the Kielland and Deepwater accidents , was summed up as being both relevant and successful.
HSE in a complex legal landscape

Both the ROV issue and employee involvement in tender processes are issues that have cropped up on the Safety Forum’s agenda on a number of occasions. One of the reasons is that these are areas that are challenging in a purely legal perspective. With regard to ROV personnel, who carry out a number of assignments on the Norwegian shelf, the specific activity must qualify as petroleum activity in order for the PSA to be the relevant regulatory authority. Another factor is whether the activity is carried out from a facility or a vessel. Many employees feel there is a lack of systematic follow-up in areas where the PSA is not the regulatory authority.

As regards participation in tender processes, the rules stipulated in the Norwegian Working Environment Act (AML) will apply as regards participation through the working environment committee (AMU), information and discussions, regardless of the type of enterprise, as long as the other conditions of the statute are fulfilled. Employee participation must also be seen in the context of Chapter 9 of the Basic Agreement relating to the duty to discuss. The employee participation rules in the petroleum regulations are, in turn, based on the AML. Not until a contract is awarded does a contractor have such a strong bond to the petroleum activities that will warrant application of the petroleum regulations regarding employee participation.

Important issues – continuous follow-up
A number of issues and processes encompassing important HSE questions are followed up on an ongoing basis by the Safety Forum. This applies, for example, to projects and processes such as chemical working environment, a project that will be concluded in 2010, but that has a number of activities running to 2012; and the working hours project, which has experienced some start-up difficulties in the contact between the parties and the R&D communities; and the RNNP project (Risk level in the petroleum activity). Mutual information is also provided on processes surrounding the HSE regulations and studies/reports to the Storting (Norwegian parliament), particularly NOU 2010:1 on Employee participation and co-determination in working life and the new process concerning a new employment report to the Storing, which will also address HSE issues in the petroleum industry. These are processes in which the Safety Forum and the PSA have been active contributors. With regard to the Norwegian public report (NOU) on employee participation, the parties asked the Ministry to explain the consultation process in the next meeting. Employers and employees have been rather critical of the work on the new employment report, both as regards its broad scope, and the surrounding process. This is linked in part to experience gained in previous report processes in which the parties felt they were more involved in the descriptions of problems and measures.

This ongoing follow-up also includes the status of the so-called lifeboat issue, both on the part of the authorities and the industry parties. This issue has also figured prominently on the Safety Forum’s agenda. Here Ognedal gave a status report on the PSA’s follow-up work. See also the notification of order to 22 operating companies and shipowners, which was a follow-up to a circular issued in 2009 . Other issues, such as a boost for catering personnel and expectations for how the industry will deal with HSE challenges in the area of noise, were also discussed. Emergency preparedness issues were also discussed, including medical preparedness and HSE and preparedness in the northern areas. Members of the Safety Forum also receive detailed reviews of serious incidents that have occurred since the previous meeting. For these – and other details – reference is made to the detailed minutes in the right-hand margin of this page, along with slides from the presentations.