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StatoilHydro: Change for safety's sake

Much has happened since Statoil and Hydro Oil & Energy merged on 1 October 2007, and said that the aim was to preserve the best from both companies. The PSA is keeping a close eye on developments.

The agency aims to ensure that all change occurs in an acceptable manner, that labour market rules are observed and that StatoilHydro creates an adequate decision base for assessing risk.

It is not up to the PSA to pick solutions or operating models for the merged company. Its job is to maintain a close dialogue with both management and employees, and to challenge StatoilHydro on all HSE-related issues.

Assuring itself that the solutions chosen are robust, and that none of the changes enhance the level of risk, is the company management’s own responsibility.

“We’re talking to both sides, and asking questions every time a choice which affects HSE is made in the integration process,” says Eirik Bjerkebæk, who has headed the PSA’s follow-up of the merger.

“During the lead-up to the new company and when it was launched, we put particular pressure on StatoilHydro to review all aspects of its business in relation to responsibilities and roles. The goal was safe operation from day one. “Acceptable change management is essential if the integration is to yield improvements and allow the ambition of preserving the best from both companies to be actually realised.”

“StatoilHydro must specify in the time to come how this goal is to be implemented,” Mr Bjerkebæk notes. “It must also show how the impact of improvement measures is measured, and document the effects of integration in practice.”

When the company determined the overall principles for its new operating model in June 2008, the PSA’s job was to ensure that the processes were pursued in an acceptable manner.

“Both we and StatoilHydro saw at an early stage that this was so complex that applying traditional impact assessment methods would be inadequate,” Mr Bjerkebæk explains. “That prompted the company to develop new methods for evaluating change risk and the way this relates to operational risk.

“Operational managers have to learn a lot, take on new roles and act as change leaders themselves. So it’s critical that they’re followed up, that they have sufficient capacity and expertise, and that their assessments are included in the risk analyses.”

The integration process has generated fundamental disagreement between StatoilHydro’s management and workforce on a number of issues. Maintaining a good collaboration platform has been a challenge.

“Our job is also to be conscious of the way our supervision influences such cooperation by providing guidance and clarifying the rules of the game to both sides,” says Mr Bjerkebæk.

“An assessment of the risk picture must embrace both the way each change element can affect hazards and ensuring that you’re able to evaluate all the consequences of the integrated solutions.

“The risk picture relates not only to how good the solutions are, but also very much to the pace and sequencing of the change process. That determines our involvement in this context.”

Change provides opportunities for reducing risk and for getting better at HSE, Mr Bjerkebæk notes. “That depends on the goals for the changes being entrenched in HSE, in part through systematic learning processes focused on improvement.

“We see that the new company has ambitions to learn from earlier incidents, and that action has been taken to identify learning processes and weaknesses.”

He emphasises that principles and results from the central integration process are now being extended to the level of each unit.

“In this round, the overriding solutions will meet a need for local adaptation. It’ll then be a challenge to ensure that the principles of the integration process are maintained and incorporated in change management at the installations.”

By Kristin Hoffmann