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Safety demands a continuous commitment

Establishing and maintaining a good level of safety in the petroleum industry calls for continuous commitment and follow-up by management, Magne Ognedal, director-general of the PSA, said in Stavanger on 31 August.

Speaking at a seminar in Stavanger on leadership and major accident risk, he noted that risk could be managed but that this required that adequate knowledge be obtained and maintained.

Clear goals also had to be set for risk management. “Good management is accordingly crucial in this area as well in order to meet the mandatory goal of avoiding major accidents in the petroleum industry.”

“Safety management has become an established concept, both in everyday life and in the legal system,” Mr Ognedal noted. “It strikes me that we should be talking to a greater extent about leadership, which is something different from and more than management.

“Management deals with administration, while leadership is about showing the way, inspiring and motivating.”

Establishing a good level of safety in the petroleum industry was not a one-off job or voluntary effort which could be achieved through a form of campaign and was then self-sustaining, he said. “Rather the opposite. Without a continuous commitment, risk management will deteriorate and the level of safety decline.

“Unfortunately, we often see signs that this is allowed to happen until a serious incident unleashes a campaign-like commitment to restoring safety standards.

“In my view, it would be much better – and a much better use of resources – to maintain continuous pressure than to pursue risk management by fits and starts through accident-inspired campaigns.”

The PSA had given attention for several years to identifying how far and in what way company managements work to prevent major accidents, Mr Ognedal said. That remained a key priority.

“This is a question of how management maintains an overview of realities and risks in its own business, and ensures that requirements for collaboration in managing risk are clearly defined both within the company and by the players involved,” he noted.

Mr Ognedal also emphasised that managing risk was naturally a management responsibility, which meant that the responsible manager must be in possession at all times of sufficient information about the activities being pursued.

They must also understand the risk picture and what it comprises, and have a good overview and understanding of the barriers established to prevent dangerous conditions arising and developing into a major accident.

The seminar on leadership and major accidents was organised by the PSA in collaboration with the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) and the University of Stavanger (UiS).

In addition to Mr Ognedal, the programme included the following speakers:

  • Øystein Michelsen, executive vice president, Exploration & Production Norway (EPN), Statoil
  • Karlene H Roberts, professor, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Christopher Hart, National Transportation Safety Board, USA
  • Ron Westrum, professor, Eastern Michigan University, USA, and at the UiS.
  • Rhona Flin, professor, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Links to the presentations are provided on the right.