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The contractors: Important role, big HSE responsibility

The contractors have important information on how challenges related to health, environment and safety may be tackled. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) sees three-party collaboration as a valuable route to solving several common issues.


The contractors play a significant part in the Norwegian oil and gas industry. Almost 70 per cent of all offshore personnel are employed by the contractors. "They are innovative and quick to adjust when required. The companies are very experienced, have large organisations behind them and possess valuable information on how to tackle HSE challenges. In short; you have a lot to contribute", Magne Ognedal emphasised in his address to the well over 100 participants at the Petroleum Safety Authority's contractor seminar on Tuesday, 31st October.

Sharing experiences
The Director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority stressed the importance of sharing experiences and challenges as part of the work towards a common goal, - which is a petroleum industry that is a world leader on the issues of Health, Safety and Environment. Also high on the agenda was how the three-party collaboration could be used for solving common HSE issues. The PSA presented the three key collaboration arenas:
, Working together for Safety and the .

A unique tradition
"The collaboration between the authorities and the parties in the industry represents a unique tradition and provides a sound basis for further development," stated Sigve Knudsen of the PSA. He underlined that mutual respect and a shared understanding of the realities and the risks involved are the pillars of this cooperation. As well as an understanding of each other's interests and roles.

"Collaborating on HSE challenges means that the parties get to challenge and complement each other, thus bringing to light different needs, and making sure that a comprehensive and sufficient light is shed upon the issues. This collaboration ensures that better decisions are made, that solutions are arrived at that will benefit the totality and the different interests in the best possible way," Knutsen explained. He drew the conclusion that the three-party collaboration is necessary for a constructive work in reducing the risk level.

Much is positive
The PSA is focussing on the activities that are carried out by the contractors - both in the way of audits, advice, investigations, meetings and follow-up of incidents. Some of the purpose behind this seminar was to share the experience from these activities with the industry. During 2005/2006 the PSA ran direct audits (not through the operator) of the onshore organisations of four major contractors.

"The audits of HSE control systems in the areas of well service and maintenance and modifications turned up much that was really positive. We were impressed, but we have also found some deviations and matters that can be improved," summed up PSA audit coordinator, Elin S. Witsø. She also pointed to challenges with an impact on HSE, which the PSA has discussed in meetings with the contractors:
"Sufficient resources is definitely one of the major issues. High activity levels in the industry turns training of personnel into quite a demanding task," she said by way of illustration.

Common challenges
Elisabeth Lootz, the Petroleum Safety Authority's contact person in the contractor team, pointed out a number of challenges in the interface between operator/contractor/sub-supplier, engineering/operations, drilling/operations and onshore/offshore.

"We see that it can be difficult to relate to both the operator's control systems as well as their own. The clients do not always provide sufficient information on their own activities, and the informal contact between interdependent milieus is often negligible. Some operators are better than others in including the contractors in engineering and operations," said Lootz. She pointed out that the PSA expects the contractors to ensure the quality and management of their own HSE activities. Furthermore that the contractors provide feedback to their clients on how they experience the HSE challenges. "It might also be a good idea to make use of common collaboration forums or organisations to work out the best solutions," she added.

Uplifting audits
So, how does it feel to be audited? We were given a description of this by Sissel Bukkholm of Vetco Aibel AS. As their HSE&Q manager, MMO Europe, Bukkholm indicated that the experience was almost exclusively positive:

"We find that the formalities have been very orderly. The Authority's audits have been notified well in advance, and they have been conducted in an unbiased manner," she said. Bukkholm explained that audits in general have served to lift the company, and have brought areas and conditions into focus that they had not seen for themselves. "We find them useful, and they are carried out in an atmosphere conducive to good dialogue," she pointed out. Tore Nyegaard of Schlumberger (SLB) added that it feels reassuring to be audited by the Petroleum Safety Authority.

"We are able to have an open and honest dialogue free from fears of suspicions or accusations," he said. In fact, Nyegaard told us that there were several issues which Schlumberger would not have been able to raise with the USA Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which they feel comfortable discussing with Norwegian regulatory authorities.

Are the opportunities made use of?
Do the contractors make the most of the opportunities that the key collaboration arenas afford them? That question set off the ensuing debate. Roar Abrahamsen of the Federation of Trade Unions, and a member of the Safety Forum as well as the Regulatory Forum, claimed that the industry is suffering from a negative culture.
He pointed out that there is discrimination of the contractor employees compared to the operator employees in matters such as regular cabins, shared sleeping quarters, and who gets prioritised for the first seat on the helicopter to shore. His conclusion was that the contractors do not make use of these arenas, because the client/supplier relation gets in the way. As far as the labour unions were concerned, however, he considered the three-party arenas to be good and important forums.

Tore Hurlen of the Federation of Norwegian Industries, and a member of the Safety Forum and the Regulatory Forum, pointed out that conflicting roles and interests must be handled at the arenas, too - because several roles have to be looked after simultaneously.

To read more about the issues that were presented, please see the links:

Petroleum Safety Authority (Norway) Press contact:
Ole-Johan Faret,
Tel: +47 970 54 064
E-mail: ole-johan.faret@ptil.no