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The PSA's responsibility and role in the event of serious incidents

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) is responsible for following up all HSE matters in the petroleum activities, including follow-up of undesirable incidents.

Magne Ognedal, director general - PSA Norway"In the event of serious incidents we generally conduct our own independent investigations to uncover what happened and, not least, why it happened. Our investigations are conducted on a free and independent basis; the goal being both to uncover any violations of the regulatory requirements and to use the knowledge to prevent similar incidents in the future," says Magne Ognedal, Director of the PSA.

The routines for investigating and follow-up of serious incidents have been subject to debate in the past few weeks, among other things due to the media reports related to the investigation of the Byford Dolphin accident on 17 April 2002, where one person was killed after having been hit by a sub weighing 191 kg.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (now the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway) investigated this accident on an independent basis and concluded that the sub went through the mousehole. The police investigation and Statoil's and Dolphins inquiries reached the same conclusion. The PSA was aware that some witnesses had other views on the course of events, but given the facts at hand we see no reason to change our view on what actually happened on Byford Dolphin.

Roles and responsibility
The PSA's task is to follow up HSE matters in the petroleum activities and supervise that the players comply with the regulatory requirements. As part of this supervisory work the PSA is to have information on undesired incidents that occur in the activities and their causes.

Many parties are involved when investigations and follow-up are conducted after an incident. Depending on how serious the incidents are, the various players will investigate and follow- up with specific measures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The PSA is to ensure that the various players follow up the regulatory requirements for investigation, follow-up and communication of information following serious incidents.

The role of the PSA
The PSA can follow up incidents that have occurred in several ways, depending on how serious the incidents are.

For incidents that lead to (or entail a threat of) serious personal injuries, death or damage to the environment and/or petroleum installation, the practice is that the PSA, as the supervisory authority, conducts its own independent investigation to uncover the course of events and the direct and underlying causes of the incident and possible violations of the regulatory requirements.

Knowledge from the investigation of such incidents is necessary in order to prevent similar incidents in the future. The PSA's investigation work is thus part of our supervisory follow-up of the activities.

Through our follow-up (investigation) we also contribute to creating security for those who work on the installation where the incident occurred in that causes are uncovered and necessary corrective measures are implemented.

The PSA's investigation group consists of professionals who have been trained in investigation methods that ensure an optimal relevant and objective gathering of facts about the possible course of events that can explain the relevant incident.

In the event of complex incidents there will normally be different views on the course of events. In such cases the investigation group's conclusions will be based on a comprehensive assessment of the facts at hand in order to draw up the most likely course of events.

The role of the police
For serious incidents the police will normally implement its own investigation. This is done to clarify the course of events, find the causes of the incident, illuminate any violations of the current regulatory requirements and consider whether any criminal offences have occurred.

In investigations related to the petroleum activities, the police and prosecution authority will normally need professional assistance from the PSA. In addition to the PSA's own investigation, we will thus also provide technical assistance to the police and prosecution authority.

This was for example done in connection with the follow-up of the fatal accident on Byford Dolphin on 17 April 2002. There are written guidelines and agreements that govern this collaboration between the supervisory authority and the police. The roles, tasks and responsibilities of the various agencies are described and clarified in these agreements. There is no basis for any conflict of roles here.

The role of the companies
In the event of serious incidents the operating company involved and/or the party responsible for operating the mobile installation (the shipping company) has a duty to implement its own investigation, imposed by the regulatory requirements. There will therefore normally be several parallel investigations of such incidents conducted by different players.

In order to limit the number of investigation teams and thus the strain on witnesses involved, the operating company and the contractor/owner of the mobile installation have sometimes joined forces and set up a joint investigation team.

It is not the PSA's experience that this has caused problems so far. It is also the PSA's general view that the players in the petroleum activities are interested in finding the actual circumstances related to the incident and contribute to other parties being able to learn something from the follow-up work.

Desire for complete openness
According to Section 6 No. 5 of the Freedom of Information Act, a formal complaint, report and other documents regarding an offence may be exempt from public disclosure. The PSA's investigation reports and audit reports will normally come under this exemption option.

However, the PSA believes it is important that there is as much openness as possible around these types of cases. Our practice is therefore not to make use of this exemption option, and that investigation reports and audit reports be provided upon request for inspection, with the exception of information subject to confidentiality such as for example personal information.

We also publish a summary of these reports on our web site, www.psa.no. In addition, our investigation/audit reports are sent to the relevant/involved companies, where we request that the contents of the reports be made known to the employees. This was also done in the Byford Dolphin case.

With regard to police investigation documents and our statement to the police, these will be exempt from public disclosure pursuant to Section 6 No. 5 of the Freedom of Information Act. This is done because the police want to have control of the distribution of the investigation documents for investigative reasons. These documents may also contain confidential information.

The Freedom of Information Act is also not applicable to cases investigated by the police, see Section 1, third subsection, which states that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable to cases considered under the statutes related to administration of justice. When we submit our statement to the police we also return the investigation documents to them.

Contact in the PSA:
Inger Anda,
Press contact
Telephone +47 970 54064