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Trends in risk level: Safe banking

The Norwegian petroleum sector can draw today on a knowledge bank which allows government, industry and unions to reap safety gains. That makes it possible to monitor and infl uence risk level trends throughout the business.

The PSA’s annual survey on trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) covers major and work accidents as well as selected working environment factors.

Previously known as the RNNS when it was confined to the NCS, this exercise has become a barometer for the HSE status of the sector both offshore and on land.

“Feedback so far is that the survey effectively provides an overview of key risk factors at industry level,” says Torleif Husebø, who heads RNNP work at the PSA.

“But the success of this work depends on everyone involved acquiring a proprietary attitude to the process, methods and results.”

Surveying trends in risk level for a whole industrial sector is unique in a global context, and its special character depends particularly on the methodology chosen for the RNNP.

“At its core, our approach seeks to identify trends from a number of angles with the aid of various types of instruments,” explains Mr Husebø.

“Quantitative indicators measure developments for serious incidents and near-misses, while we apply qualitative methods in a bid to identify possible models which can explain these trends.

“An extensive questionnaire-based poll conducted every other year among all employees on offshore installations and at land-based plants provides an additional dimension.

“That measures developments in key HSE factors and how they are perceived by personnel. All in all, we end up with a broad picture of causal mechanisms and factors affecting risk.”

The PSA makes active efforts to spread information about and around the RNNP results to the industry, in part by publishing all the reports on its website.

Other channels include the discussion of risk factors in the Safety Forum, which brings together employers, employees and government, and papers to conferences and seminars.

A mantra for the RNNP survey is that its results should be utilised by the whole industry to initiate and implement measures which yield HSE benefits.

Industry efforts to reduce the number of gas leaks provide one example of the application of RNNP figures as the background for a collective commitment.

“The basis for the OLF’s major gas leak reduction project was the RNNP’s identification of an increase in such escapes around 2000,” explains Mr Husebø.

“We then joined forces with the companies and the unions in using the RNNP figures to set an improvement target of halving the number of leaks by 2008.

“History shows that a collective commitment can yield good results, and this goal was actually achieved a year early.”

 However, it is uncertain whether this reduction in gas leaks was maintained in 2008. The figures are due to be published in April.

Conducted since 2001, the biennial poll of offshore workers – extended to personnel on land in 2007 – asks respondents to how they find HSE conditions at their workplace.

The results represent a unique data set which holds many lessons for the petroleum industry and others, Mr Husebø points out.

“This material is widely used by us and various research bodies and consultancies. However, we see that a potential remains for extracting data to analyse HSE-related challenges.

“Both individual companies and other players in the petroleum sector could benefit from making more conscious use of the RNNP information.”

By Ole-Johan Faret