Supervision of HSE in the petroleum sector may be the PSA’s most important and visible function, but it also fulfils another key role in the official regulation of this industry.
Enforcer and adviser
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway was the name adopted in 2004 for the new regulator separated from the NPD to supervise safety and the working environment on the NCS.
Its Norwegian name, Petroleumstilsynet, also carries the meaning of supervision (tilsyn) – appropriate, given that this is one of the PSA’s primary functions.
But it is also a directorate. In terms of Norwegian government administration, this confers an advisory role in addition to its status as an “executive agency” with enforcement powers.
The PSA’s “directorate” duties involve conducting studies as the basis for advising the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and as input for developing statutory regulations.
In addition comes its role as the competent body in relation to the petroleum sector, other government agencies and the general public.
Directorates and other administrative authorities in Norway are not political organs, but advisory agencies which follow up government policies in their respective jurisdictions.
Where the PSA is concerned, this means that it observes guidance from the ministry which finds expression, for example, in an annual letter of allocation.
However, the ministry’s policy signals are normally couched in general terms. That gives some room for manoeuvre in the way they are followed up.
The PSA can by and large determine its own priorities, plan and implement supervisory activities, and apply necessary enforcement measures to the responsible companies.
Advice to the ministry may relate, for example, to work on legislation and regulations, PDOs and the award of production licences.
The PSA possesses substantial knowledge in such areas, both through the expertise of its specialists and through the information obtained from supervision activities.
Communicating that knowledge to everyone involved in the oil sector is regarded as an important contribution to maintaining and enhancing a high level of safety and a good working environment.
The PSA’s annual RNNP reports are a key tool in this process. They not only assemble much data on safety risk, but also help to create an objective and integrated risk picture.
A shared understanding of risk by industry, unions and government creates a good basis for purposeful and constructive work to achieve improvements.
Other ways for the PSA to communicate knowledge include staging specialist meetings and exchanging experience by posting investigation/audit reports and similar material to its website.