The meeting of the Safety Forum, which on this occasion was held in Copenhagen, also raised important issues such as making Norwegian standards more easily accessible, a framework for the meeting between SF and the Council for the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Atil), serious incidents and the employees' reduced confidence in helicopter safety.
Tripartite cooperation on HSE across continental shelves
The day before the meeting, the Safety Forum (SF) met with the Danish Offshore Safety Council (OSR), which is headed by Energistyrelsen (the Danish Energy Agency), and consists of representatives from employers and employees in the industry and various authorities.
The meeting with OSR was the reason for arranging the SF meeting in Copenhagen.
While the tripartite cooperation within the oil and gas industry in Norway is organised with the Regulatory Forum as an arena for regulatory development, and the Safety Forum as an arena for major HSE projects and processes, the Danish OSR encompasses both regulatory development and general HSE development.
In summary, the meeting was seen as an interesting and important starting point for further contact and follow-up. The parties had an opportunity to gain insight into how the various countries approach HSE challenges at the authority level. Although there are differences in both activity levels, the number of players and the pattern of interaction in the petroleum sector in the two countries, several of the participants emphasised the importance of having a common understanding of the challenges to be met as players in the North Sea basin.
The Centre for Quality Assurance of Competence - a debate on contents and future
The Petroleum Industry's Centre for Quality Assurance of Competence (PSK) was established in part because of the inadequate quality assurance of training providers/schools. There was also a desire to weed out unprofessional players in this market, and to ensure that the industry had an influence on the curriculum.
During the SF meeting, it emerged that there had been some disagreement between the parties that jointly own and operate PSK concerning the future role and responsibilities of the PSK. A working group has been appointed in the hopes of obtaining clarification on this issue, which is needed in order to proceed.
Rescue equipment for a new winter season
SF's chair and Director General of the PSA, Magne Ognedal, praised the work carried out under the direction of OLF and the Norwegian Shipowners' Association and in cooperation with experts, employers and employees in relation to davit-launched and free-fall lifeboats.
He also referred to the letters sent by the PSA to all lifeboat-owners in the industry, in which the authorities emphasise the importance of following up the recommended actions from the projects before the winter season.
The authorities are now entering into a dialogue with the players concerning all rescue equipment. Several people pointed out the challenges related to the means of rescue and launching arrangements, and the implementation and use of the new knowledge and competence by a number of players. OLF was requested to discuss how these issues should be handled in view of the fact that the lifeboat project was formally terminated on 8 September 2009.
How to make the Norwegian standards more easily accessible to the users
A functioning set of regulations requires access to and use of recognised standards and norms. NSE is often referred to in the regulations as a minimum requirement within a number of areas. One of SF's members stated that Standards Norway is considering appointing a working group to obtain an overview of the standards which must be available within the working environment area, and to consider broader accessibility.
SF's chair emphasised that, if price is an obstacle, we must find a way to deal with this. SF's members support an initiative from Standards Norway in this area, and it was emphasised that all involved parties must contribute to making the standards available to the users, and that the cost issue must be resolved.
Helicopter activities - confidence is challenged
Several of SF's members were concerned about what they see as a negative development related to the safety culture and climate for cooperation in the helicopter industry as a result of Norwegian companies being acquired by foreign owners. Examples were given of issues related to employment, contracts and pressure on employee representatives, which were seen as having a direct impact on safety.
This description was supported by other members, who also referred to examples which indicate a trend where financial matters take precedence over safety considerations. It was also mentioned that an increasing number of consultants in the companies are uncomfortable about the development.
SINTEF has previously conducted two comprehensive studies of the safety of helicopter transport in the North Sea, commissioned by the petroleum industry. Two public studies on helicopter safety have also been carried out.
The problems raised by SF are also being monitored by the committee working on helicopter safety study no. 3 (HSS-3), http://www.olf.no/hss-3/category1515.html. SF will be monitoring these developments, and we look forward to the involved parties and responsible companies in the helicopter network working together to reach solutions.
SF – an arena for mutual information
During the meeting we were informed of three cases of transport of oily "slop" from the Volve field to countries where crews were exposed to H2S gas. StatoilHydro is looking into the matter, which is also being investigated by the Stavanger police. An account was also given of a serious lifting incident on the Deepsea Atlantic in August this year. See the PSA's website.
A status update was also given on a number of issues which the SF follows over time, and the working hours project gave rise to several remarks. Reference is made to the minutes, which can be seen on the right-hand side of the website, for details regarding the individual items.