This was yet another Safety Forum meeting in which many key issues were addressed.
In addition to a review of the minutes and outstanding issues as well as a comprehensive account of serious incidents, several central HSE challenges in the industry were examined for the purpose of mutual information and thorough debate.
Both the employee and employer sides wanted to discuss this issue and arrive at measures designed to improve the tripartite cooperation in the industry.
In important matters such as the lifeboat issue, chemical working environment and other projects and processes of fundamental significance, the employees' representatives expressed growing frustration over inadequate involvement.
OLF acknowledged the need to clarify expectations and to improve the tripartite cooperation. In the meeting, they took the initiative for a process to clarify mutual expectations and principles for the cooperation related to concrete projects.
The employee unions took a positive view of this initiative, while at the same time emphasizing the need to raise awareness in the industry along several dimensions of the tripartite cooperation.
Both the cooperation between employer and employees at the individual company level and the tripartite collaboration surrounding regulatory development and technical priority areas within HSE require a good and formal foundation on the part of the involved parties.
OLF has taken the initiative for the process and will invite the Safety Forum representatives, who in turn will designate their own representatives for the continued work.
New efforts in the lifeboat project
The lifeboat project was a key topic at the previous meeting of the Safety Forum, but the issue was put on the agenda again because the employee representatives did not find the statement provided in the previous meeting to be satisfactory or clarifying. They were concerned with genuine employee participation and openness in this work.
OLF provided information about changes in the project management including a new project manager and a leader for the lifeboat network. The paramount objective of the Lifeboat Project Phase 2 (LBP2) is for the lifeboats on the Norwegian shelf to function according to Section 43 of the Facilities Regulations which states e.g. that "It shall be possible to carry out quick and effective evacuation of personnel on facilities to a safe area in all weather conditions”.
The project manager underlined LBP2's ambition to contribute to the industry achieving this goal. The project will carry out examinations and tests to find out how the lifeboats rate in relation to the current regulations.
In his summary, Magne Ognedal emphasized the importance of the work being done in the early phase where the foundation is laid for a successful project. He also stated that it was positive that the project will evaluate new technology and new rescue concepts in the continued work. He stressed the importance of thoroughness, orderliness and openness to arrive at good solutions.
Uncertainty regarding new guidelines for training drilling and well personnel
The new guideline 024 for training drilling and well personnel has created uncertainty and worry among employees in the industry. This related to HSE aspects such as poor training and unclear premises as a basis for employment in specific positions.
On this basis, OLF gave an account of the background for the work on the new guidelines and the links to the PSA's regulations. OLF emphasized that 024 represents a norm for competence requirements for drilling and well activities on the Norwegian shelf, regardless of activity level and nationality, and confirmed that compliance is the industry's responsibility.
They pointed out that the competence requirements have, in fact, been enhanced, not lowered, and that there is no room for compromise as regards these requirements. The employer is responsible for verifying competence requirements. 024 is not the only way to train people, but it is the norm that the PSA will now use as a basis.
Magne Ognedal emphasized in his summary that the problem is primarily related to inadequate compliance. He also said that several parties have expressed a desire for a review of 024 to remove sources of confusion.
The Safety Forum will await the final minutes of the meeting that was held between the parties in mid-January. Action will be taken in accordance with the conclusions of that meeting.
Chemical health risk
Considerable time and resources were also devoted in this meeting to a status of the project work and progress. There was a detailed account of the project plan, which had been submitted to the PSA and was now sent on for evaluation by the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion (AID).
It is common knowledge that this is an area where Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion Bjarne Hansen has gotten very involved, sending signals to the industry as regards expected commitments and improvements.
The project is now organized as a tripartite cooperation with roots in competence and knowledge milieus. Gunnar Breivik, StatoilHydro, is the new head of the management committee, and he was also present at this meeting.
The objective of the project is presented as follows: To facilitate execution of all work in such a manner that potential risk can be handled at a satisfactory level in relation to the provisions of the Chemical Regulations.
The end-products of this work will include a common exposure database, literature database, best practice for occupational hygiene and mapping of exposure, while at the same time the work will promote development of new knowledge through cancer and mortality surveys as well as exposure and health risk. Hot work is also an integral part of this project.
Increased knowledge about groups at risk
One of the PSA's main priorities in both 2007 and 2008 has been the work to develop a comprehensive picture of the risk of work-related injury and illness (ABS) for various groups in the industry. The ambition is to contribute to active use of knowledge about groups at risk in a risk-based approach where efforts are directed towards groups where the need and effect are greatest.
An account was given of this work which, among other things, will be used as the basis for a transversal audit of six operating companies working with seven contractor companies. The objective of the audit is to evaluate the companies' systematic activities to identify and follow up groups that may be at risk in the companies' own activities.
Another objective is to assess the cooperation between operator/contractor. The PSA hopes that the audit will contribute to increased knowledge in this area so that preventive efforts can target those groups where the need and effect is greatest. These audits run over a long period of time and the companies themselves are to identify their own data and find a group that they wish to follow up.
Facilitation for older and ailing personnel
The situation for older and ailing personnel on the shelf was also raised by the employee unions. They pointed out that the regulations - both as regards inclusive working life (IA) and the Working Environment Act's requirements for facilitating work for those who need this help - is not being safeguarded according to the intentions offshore.
On this basis, the PSA talked about a coordinated action project between the PSA, NAV and the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (Atil), instituted in 2007 following an initiative from the AID.
The idea was to see how these agencies, individually and together, can work more effectively to counteract that employees with reduced work/functional abilities leave working life and become recipients of passive national insurance benefits. Econ Analyse conducted an extensive analysis of facilitation in Norwegian companies which examined how cooperation among the agencies could be reinforced.
A guide was developed as part of this cooperative project which, in part, attempts to concretize what this facilitation entails. In the continuation of this cooperative project, a group will be designated to prepare a guide for use both within the agencies and externally vis-à-vis companies. A guide will be an important instrument in relation to the challenges for special groups such as commuters land/offshore. The Safety Forum will contribute with descriptions of the problems and distribution.
Catering – again
Catering employees' working environment and conditions have long been on the agenda of both the Safety Forum and the authorities. In the meeting, the PSA gave an account of a transversal audit (audit of multiple players) targeting management of cleaning, hygiene and working environment for the catering area.
The project manager summarized the account by pointing out that the audit has revealed both best practice and deficient understanding, deficient management and deficient compliance in relation to the supervisory obligation. However, no obvious breaches of regulations have been uncovered thus far, but there are areas which will still require follow-up and supervision.
This relates e.g. to shipowners' main company responsibility - and not least, training. The PSA will prepare a compiled report that will be sent to the companies for transfer of experience as well as contribution to continued attention and learning.
Cancer in the petroleum industry
Cancer in an offshore perspective has been a topic of interest in the Safety Forum for several years. A lengthy and laborious task was carried out from 1989 to 1996 to get a study in place. The researchers have dug through registers in the companies and in the unions to find relevant names of persons who have had work offshore of a certain duration.
A study group (28,000 persons) was established in 1998/1999 based on the responses to questionnaires. The group is being monitored over time by the University of Bergen (UiB), which has played a key role in the work on the cancer issue.
The Cancer Registry of Norway has conducted a simple census from 1999 to the present. In a limited study, Stami (National Institute of Occupational Health) has examined mortality among offshore workers, e.g. as a consequence of cancer illnesses.
A summary made by the Cancer Registry says e.g. the following: "preliminary calculations show that the total incidence of cancer among offshore workers does not deviate much from what we would have expected in relation to the general population. However, we see a heightened risk of acute myelogenic leukemia (AML) and cancer in the pleura (pleura, normally mesoteliomy).”
The AID has sent the Cancer Registry's report with proposed follow-up activities to the Research Council, with a request that the Council evaluate the report in relation to financing through the Petromaks program.
The PSA director, who also leads the Safety Forum, concluded that the companies must ensure that they have control over potential exposure to benzene and other possible causes of work-related cancer. This problem area will be followed up by the Safety Forum in connection with natural milestones.
Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Angela Ebbesen, technical secretary in the Safety Forum