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Risk of major accidents: Management 's priorities crucial

"Priorities made by a company's management may well be the decisive factor in how the risk of major accidents are handled," said Anne Vatten, Director for Supervisory Activities in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) at a conference on the risk of major accidents, which was organized for contractors on Thursday, 16 October.

Vatten pointed out that, in addition to the human aspects,  a major accident would also have substantial social consequences. Reducing the risk of major accidents is therefore an essential guideline in the HSE regulations, as well as the authorities' follow-up of the activity.

The conference gathered almost 100 participants. This is the fourth year the PSA organizes such a conference for contractors.

Roger Leonhardsen from the PSA says that the majority of personnel who conduct work offshore are contractors, and they are now involved in all kinds of activities.
"It is important to be in the forefront and prevent accidents. This is the responsibility of the entire industry, and forms the foundation for the authorities' audit of the activities," Leonhardsen points out.

Director for Supervisory Activities Anne Vatten said that a major accident is the worst thing that can happen in the petroleum activities, and reminded the audience of disasters that have impacted the industry. She mentioned the hydrocarbon leak in the utility shaft on Statfjord A as an example of a recent incident with the potential of becoming a major accident.

"When the very foundation of our safety fails, such as the work permit system, what are we left with?" Vatten asked. She pointed out that it is vital for the PSA to ensure that the companies' managements are constantly focused on the work to avoid major accidents. Focusing on the risk of major accidents must be deeply rooted in the companies' governing bodies and senior management.

"The management must set specific goals and ensure that there are adequate resources and skills in the organisation to implement the planned activities and follow them up in a systematic manner," said the Director for Supervisory Activities.

Recovering oil and gas is associated with great risk. Hazardous operations are carried out every day. What is the reason why accidents do not happen more often? This issue was discussed during the conference. The importance of several barriers was emphasized. One simple error should not have disastrous consequences.

When an accident has occurred, however, it is important that the organization learns a lesson from it, whether the incident is minor or a more serious accident. The follow-up work is resource-intensive and must be conducted systematically and thoroughly to allow the entire industry to benefit from the experience, thereby preventing further undesirable incidents.


The presentations given at the seminar are in Norwegian only, and can be found at the Norwegian version of this article.

Contact in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Roger L Leonhardsen
Email: roger.leonhardsen@ptil.no