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Safety Forum's annual conference 2005: - Demanding future for the petroleum industry

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is encouraging the petroleum industry to be aware of the development towards remote control, centralised management and reduced staffing. "Now is the time to prove that we can be a pioneering industry also in these difficult times," emphasised Director General Gundla Kvam (pictured) during the Safety Forum's annual conference 2005.

The Director General gave the opening address on behalf of Secretary General Ellen Seip, who was unable to attend.

"Employee participation has a strong tradition in Norwegian business and industry, and nowhere is this done better than in the petroleum industry," Kvam said. She emphasised the current trends towards regionalisation or globalisation of the major oil companies, centralisation of management, the site of power being moved, changed decision-making processes - and hence changed conditions for employee participation.

Exacting future
"Many fields on the Shelf are facing major changes. E-operation is a key concept here, and staff reductions are on the agenda. I would encourage the industry to be well aware of these trends, and to prove that it can be a trend-setting industry in times such as these as well," Kvam said, stressing that "the future, as we can see it in the crystal ball, is an exacting one."

The Director General pointed out that HSE success and high value creation are inextricably linked to robust work processes - where participation is a vital precondition.
"Good, orderly and confidence-building processes are pillars of good HSE practice. Participation must remain an element throughout the entire lifecycle - from design and operation to dismantling and removal," she said.

Kvam reminded the audience that both internationalisation, developments regarding information and technology, a changed player picture and new activities will challenge the work of maintaining and further developing the HSE level in the time ahead.

"The petroleum industry is meant to be a pioneering industry. The HSE aspect must be a natural and crucial part of the assessments when choices are made regarding future solutions, change decisions and new company and organisational structures," she emphasised.

Valuable cooperation between the parties
When asked how the petroleum industry is different from other industries, and how this affects the HSE aspect, Kvam said:

"Norwegian petroleum activities constitute an industry with many resources - both with regard to expertise, earnings and experience. This has an obvious effect on how the parties cooperate. The players know what they are talking about and how to reach their goals. They demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility for the development of the health, safety and environment work.

The Director General adds that this is a vital condition for maintaining a high level in the activities. "Both the regulations and the audit system have been designed on the assumption that there will be well-functioning cooperation between the parties", she underlined.

Important contribution
In her opening address, Ms. Kvam pointed to the RNNS project (Trends in risk levels - Norwegian Shelf) as an important contribution towards a common understanding of the trends in risk levels.

"At the end of the 1990s we noted that the parties in the industry pointed in separate directions in indicating a course for risk development on the Shelf. Today RNNS has an important position in the industry. The Ministry will use these experiences to establish a new, national monitoring system for the working environment and health - and the petroleum industry will also be included here." Kvam said.

New monitoring system
When asked why such a monitoring system will be set up, and how the experiences from RNNS will be used, Kvam explains:

"We recognise that we in Norway aren't doing well enough in keeping track of this type of data. There is a strong need for better coordination of documentation and research. Experiences from RNNS will be important when such a national monitoring system for working environment and health is being developed," says the Director General.

The Ministry was unable to express the same delight in the actual development in risk level.

"There have been great variations in the development after the year 2000, and this has resulted in a flat level. Even though the total number of incidents has been reduced over the last few years, some of the potential consequences of certain incidents are so serious that the overall risk shows no corresponding reduction," Kvam pointed out during the opening of the conference. She concluded that it is impossible to observe a lasting development in the right direction, and this is worrying.

Criticism and expenses
Kvam also raised the issue of the regulations for the offshore petroleum activities.
"The regulatory authorities and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are often criticised for the expenses related to the regulations, and the way they are enforced. When the PSA sums up the results of the user survey in connection with the ongoing regulations project, it is the Ministry's understanding that the industry is generally pleased with the structure of the current regulations - with functional requirements that refer to the industry's own standards. No one has suggested that any provision should be removed," Kvam explained.

"This is not surprising, given the parties' broad participation in designing these regulations," she added.
"A number of comments have been given, however, on the wording of individual provisions, and also a number of opinions on how the regulations are enforced by the authorities, and how they are applied by the industry.

This is important input that we must pay attention to," Gundla Kvam said. She also emphasised that the authorities are focusing on improvements, and that the industry itself must explain in what way any individual provisions are driving up costs and are unnecessary.

Central arena
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs feels it is of great importance to meet in an arena like the Safety Forum's annual conference. Kvam stated this very clearly:
"The Safety Forum has become an important arena for cooperation among the relevant parties, and it is in line with the expectations the Ministry had when setting up the Forum in 2000. The annual conference has developed into one of the most important venues for knowledge and opinions on health, safety and the environment in the petroleum activities.

As head of the Safety Forum and the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, Magne Ognedal was also very pleased to welcome more than 250 participants to the conference. He emphasised the goal of the meeting: To look to the future rather than to the past, while also being specific and solution-oriented.

Contact in the Safety Forum:
Angela Ebbesen