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The operator’s emergency preparedness responsibility

The number of smaller players on the Norwegian shelf has increased considerably in recent years. Several of them have chosen new ways of organising their activities. This article clarifies some of the important requirements governing the operator’s responsibility in relation to emergency preparedness.

The new operating companies are diverse, but some of the common characteristics include a relatively limited organisation, operating licences in early phases and conducting or preparing to conduct exploration drilling activities.

Many of them use or plan to use external resources to perform important tasks, such as emergency preparedness.

The HSE regulations provide ample flexibility within the regulatory framework in relation to how the operators can organise their activities.

The operator must safeguard the consideration for safety for personnel, the environment and financial assets represented by facilities and vessels, including operating availability.

Furthermore, the operator is responsible for continually maintaining effective emergency preparedness geared toward handling hazard and accident situations which can lead to the loss of life or personal injury, pollution or significant material damage.

The Framework Regulations require the operator to have an organisation in Norway which can independently ensure that the petroleum activities are carried out in accordance with the regulations.

The regulations give the operator a considerable amount of freedom to organise its activities and, for example, to use external resources to perform activities.

The operator is responsible for ensuring that the activities take place in a prudent manner and in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements.

To assess if the activities are prudent, the operator must have sufficient competence to e.g.:

  • qualify contractors who carry out work of importance to health, safety and the environment,
  • define the contractors’ tasks,
  • ensure the quality of the products or services delivered by the contractors,
  • make the necessary decisions to ensure that the activities as a whole are prudent,
  • define if, and in which areas there is need for performing verification activities (follow-up) in their own organisation and with the contractors taking part in the activities,
  • determine the verification basis for the petroleum activities as a whole,
  • perform a collective assessment of the results from the implemented verifications,
  • lead and coordinate the emergency preparedness resources’ efforts in hazard and accident situations.

The operator can delegate authority to external suppliers, thus giving them real and formal competence to perform certain tasks on its behalf.

If the operator is to safeguard its own responsibility, it must, as a minimum, conduct assessments and make decisions at a strategic level.

In other words, there are limits for how much the operator can delegate to the supplier. What these limits are can vary from company to company.

Third-line preparedness is often defined as strategic level matters, business decisions, the big picture, owner/board level, and also communicating these circumstances to the media. This provides an indication of which tasks the operator must attend to itself.

The operator shall also keep the supervisory authorities continually up to date on the development, and which measures are planned to be implemented. For this communication, the operator can, through delegating authority to external suppliers, give these suppliers real and formal competence to perform some tasks on the operator’s behalf.

Again, there are limits to how much can be delegated to the supplier. For some conditions at the strategic level, the authorities will need to have the opportunity to conduct a dialogue with the operator, as well as the ability to obtain quick and direct clarification from the operator’s responsible personnel.

Circumstances where the authorities require direct communication with the operator’s responsible personnel often coincide with the tasks the operator itself must attend to, as a minimum.

In other words, the tasks which the operator can delegate to the supplier will vary. One basic requirement is still that the operator must organise itself in a way that does not reduce its ability to fulfil its regulatory requirements, and that does not reduce the PSA’s ability to verify compliance with this responsibility.

In addition to continually maintaining effective emergency preparedness, the operator shall ensure that anyone performing work on its behalf, either personally, by employees, contractors or subcontractors, fulfils requirements given in the HSE regulations.

Supervisory responsibility
This implies, among other things, that the operator has a supervisory responsibility toward the supplier of emergency preparedness services (second-line preparedness organisation).

A supplier providing services in connection with the petroleum activities, such as emergency preparedness services, is an independent obligated party pursuant to the petroleum regulations, cf. Section 5 of the Framework Regulations.

The supplier’s responsibility will, however, be limited to the tasks belonging to its area of responsibility.

The PSA can conduct audits aimed at the supplier, through the operator, to ensure that the supplier is qualified and that the work tasks are performed in a prudent manner.