The annual survey by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway of the risk scenario in petroleum activities – RNNP – shows that many indicators are tending in the right direction. Overall, the conclusions of the RNNP survey point to a weak positive trend in the risk picture in 2013.
The aggregate indicator for major accident risk is at its lowest level since measurements began in 1996. This is the result of fewer incidents occurring, with none of them being very serious. There were no fatalities in the petroleum activities in 2013.
"This positive trend demonstrates that efforts yield results. The industry has taken the necessary steps and acted purposefully in a number of areas. The PSA is nonetheless concerned that cost pressures in the industry will, over time, impact the risk level", says PSA Director General Anne Myhrvold.
"We have got where we are today on the basis of explicit regulatory requirements, their follow-up by industry participants and their enforcement by the authorities. The focus on safety is also anchored in Norway's policy ambition of being a world-leader in petroleum HSE. Safety is a perishable commodity, so it is now important to sustain the good work we have done in order to maintain and further enhance safety levels."
Barriers remain a concern
The results of this year's survey also show where considerable challenges still remain. In barrier management, the indicators reveal major differences between the facilities, not only in 2013, but also over the last decade. For some facilities, the failure rates are well above the expected values.
Barriers that work when they are required to are a prerequisite for safe operations. For this reason, the companies carry out functional tests of technical barriers under conditions that are as real as possible. Data from these tests are an important contribution to the RNNP survey.
"Despite the significant attention given to barrier management in recent years, we have regrettably not seen any obvious improvement. In the light of the focus that the industry has placed in the last few years on the prevention of major accidents, it should have been possible to make more improvements in this area than recent data show", says Myhrvold.
Increase in hydrocarbon leaks
In recent years, the industry has focused a lot of attention on reducing hydrocarbon leaks. For 2013, nine hydrocarbon leaks of more than 0.1 kg/s were recorded. This is three more than in the year before. One of the leaks was in the 1-10 kg/s category, while the other eight were in the 0.1-1 kg/s category. The risk contribution from hydrocarbon leaks is at the lowest recorded level since measurements began in 1996.
But Myhrvold nonetheless entreats the industry to stay vigilant.
"The number of hydrocarbon leaks is at an all-time low. The figures from RNNP 2013 are the second lowest since measurements began. This is still an increase over the previous year and is cause for a certain amount of concern. The industry has experienced a positive trend in this area for several years. So it is important for them not to rest on their laurels, but to continue working for continuous improvement."
Well control incidents
The number of well control incidents fell slightly, with 13 incidents in 2013 against 16 in 2012. For production drilling, the fall in 2013 is statistically significant. For exploration drilling, the 2013 level is at the average of the last five years, which is higher than the level of the preceding five years. The risk contribution, weighted for the potential contribution to loss of life, shows an overall increase in 2013 compared with 2011 and 2012. This is primarily because two of the incidents connected to exploration drilling are in the medium risk category.
Serious personal injuries have shown a positive trend in recent years. The injury rate is now 0.48 serious injuries per million hours of work for the Continental Shelf as a whole.
There is, however, no clear indication of improvement as regards serious personal injuries on mobile facilities, and there are significantly more personal injuries in drilling and well activities on mobile facilities than on production ones.
Damage to supporting structures
In 2013, there were 10 incidents of construction-related damage which is a slight fall from 2012, when there were 12 injuries. The number of incidents in the period 2011 to 2013 is the highest in the period and represents a break in the positive trend observed between 2004 and 2010.
Qualitative study of construction and maritime incidents
Against a background of the negative trend in reported construction incidents on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, and the serious incidents on Floatel Superior and Scarabeo 8 in 2012, in 2013 the PSA instigated a qualitative study to examine construction and maritime incidents. The project was focused on incidents which might lead to major accidents.
The study concludes that insufficient attention is paid to the risk potential of construction and maritime incidents. Too few incidents are investigated, the investigations cover key causal relationships only to a limited extent, and there is at times a lack of understanding that these are safety critical incidents. Information exchange, both between the participants and between the different phases of a facility's life cycle, should also be improved. The status of the construction trades involved has also been weakened in recent years.
Challenges within maintenance management
The figures from 2010 to 2013 show that several players are having difficulties fulfilling the regulatory requirements for maintenance management. Although the amount of outstanding maintenance for production facilities in 2013 is at the same level as in 2012, it is considerably higher than in the two preceding years.
OTHER KEY POINTS FROM RNNP 2013
Helicopter-related risk constitutes a large share of the overall risk exposure to which employees on the Continental Shelf are exposed. The indicator which reflects the most serious helicopter incidents is at a low level, as in 2012.
Fewer ships on collision courses
Only two ships were registered on collision courses in 2013, and this is the lowest recorded for the period 2002 to 2013.
The indicator for noise exposure shows an improvement for two out of 11 positions from 2012 to 2013. For eight position categories, there has been a negative trend over the last year, after several years of positive trends for a number of them.
The industry project for noise reduction in the petroleum activities that was initiated in 2011 is expected to contribute towards improvement in the noise indicator over time. Based on this year's result, this work has not produced any effects in the present reporting period.
THE QUESTIONNAIRE-BASED SURVEY
During the year, the questionnaire-based survey of employees on the Continental Shelf was carried out for the seventh time. The results presented provide an overall picture of the employees' assessment of occupational health and safety in their own workplaces.
In general, the results show an improvement in many HSE-related areas. The overall assessment is that the HSE climate has improved. At the same time, it is apparent that there are challenges in the same areas as in previous years. These include the quantity of procedures and routines, deficient maintenance and difficulties relating to lack of a common language.
As a whole, the accident risk is perceived to be lower than at the time of the previous questionnaire-based survey in 2011, but is assessed as higher in certain areas. This applies to risks associated with helicopter accidents, sabotage/terror and failures in load-bearing structures or loss of buoyancy. The employees perceive the accident risk to be highest in respect of falling objects, gas leaks and serious occupational accidents.
The physical, chemical and ergonomic working environment does not appear to have changed to a notable degree compared with 2011.
RISKS LEVELS ON LAND
In 2013, for the eight facilities under the PSA's authority, there were reported 12 non-ignited hydrocarbon leaks, one ignited leak, one minor fire, one toxic emission, 25 falling objects and 3 accidents involving cars/means of transport.
Increase in number of hydrocarbon leaks
The number of non-ignited hydrocarbon leaks in 2013 (12 leaks) was higher than in 2012 (four). The increase is statistically significant in relation to the average for the period 2006 to 2012 once working hours have been normalised.
13 serious personal injuries were reported at onshore facilities in 2013. The corresponding figure for 2012 was seven.
The total injury rate for the onshore facilities is 1.2 serious personal injuries per million hours of work in 2013. This is the highest injury rate recorded in the period 2006-2013, and the increase in 2013 is statistically significant compared with the average in the period 2006-2012.
There are large variations between the facilities and two facilities in particular saw a marked increase relative to the average of preceding years (2006-2012). One of the facilities accounted for a full six of the 13 serious personal injuries in 2013.
The questionnaire-based survey
This is the fourth time that employees at the onshore facilities have participated in the questionnaire-based survey. The HSE climate at the onshore facilities is generally perceived as relatively good. At the same time, it is apparent that some areas have experienced a significant negative change from 2011 to 2013. In addition, those areas which were assessed most negatively in 2011 are still seen to present difficulties. This applies to problems associated with various procedures and routines, governing documents and linguistic challenges.
The results show that in 2013 the employees perceive an increased risk of different accidents. The greatest dangers are assessed as being falling objects, oil/gas leaks and releases of toxic gases/substances/chemicals.
The physical, chemical and ergonomic working environment is seen as relatively good and has remained stable compared with 2011.