The Norwegian Storting (parliament) wants Norway’s petroleum industry to be the world leader for HSE. But what does this actually involve? What is the position today? Will it ever be possible to say that Norway is a world-beater for safety? Ingvill Hagesæther Foss, one of two directors of supervision at the PSA, has the answers.
How to lead world with safety?
The goal of leading the world has been significant for the progress we’ve made with HSE in our petroleum sector. It’s been a constant goad in efforts to improve and strengthen safety.
Without that target, we could have run the risk that development would have stagnated.
Who’s decided that we should be the world leader?
This objective has been enshrined in key White Papers over the past decade, with the latest presented in 2011.
The current government has also emphasised several times that this goal remains in force – most recently when labour and social affairs minister Anniken Hauglie visited us this January.
What area does the ambition cover?
It applies to everything embraced by Norway’s HSE regulations for the petroleum sector, and thereby to major accident risk, security and the working environment.
What must the industry emphasise to reach the target?
Integrated management and continuous improvement are the key requirements in efforts to enhance HSE.
The government, too, has emphasised that these principles must form the basis for all work by the industry in this area, and for decisions and measures by both the players and the government.
Other important factors are learning from incidents and collaboration between companies, unions and the authorities.
What does integrated management involve?
The regulations require solutions to be prudent, both individually and in an overall context.
Players must develop an integrated approach to managing different types of risk in their activities and to resolving conflicts between different objectives.
They also need to strike a balance between considerations of safety, the working environment, health, the natural environment and value creation.
An operator has overall responsibility for its activities, and the requirement means where it’s concerned that it must take an overall view of managing the business and risk.
Safety has to be an integral part of its operations, not an add-on. Our new risk definition, which gives greater emphasis to uncertainty, reflects an integrated understanding here.
What is continuous improvement?
A key requirement in the regulations is that the players must continue developing and improving the level of HSE. This is a fundamental principle in Norway’s petroleum sector.
Among other considerations, it means that a company must systematically assess and adopt the best available technology, the best practice and new knowledge.
Ensuring continuous improvement is the responsibility of company managements, and this work must be long-term and purposeful. It can’t be based on spasmodic efforts.
Safety work never ends. You’ve always got to keep on moving forward.
Why is learning important?
We can’t accept that companies repeat errors which might have been avoided if they’d given priority to learning from their own errors and experience or those of others.
Drawing lessons from undesirable incidents is absolutely essential for preventing accidents, and crucial for continuous improvement.
Companies must obtain information about and knowledge of relevant conditions, share this with others and ensure that such learning is actually utilised for improvement and prevention.
How important is tripartite collaboration?
Constructive cooperation between companies, unions and government is important for driving continued HSE work in the right direction – and crucial to becoming the world leader.
Good tripartite collaboration, in part through the Safety and Regulatory Fora, is fundamental, and it’s important that all sides play their part in maintaining this.
The PSA’s view: Company managements are responsible for ensuring continuous improvement. This work must be long-term and purposeful, and cannot be based on spasmodic efforts.
Does Norway lead the world already?
Many people have been impressed and inspired by the country’s petroleum sector and by the system Norway has built up to manage its oil wealth – with work on HSE as a clear and integral part.
A number of studies and reviews show that Norwegian standards are high in an international context. But does that mean we’re the world leader?
Since data and methods of counting vary from country to country, no statistics are available for comparing HSE between them.
What picture is painted by our own measurements?
We collect large volumes of data every year from the companies through our RNNP process in order to measure trends for the level of risk in the petroleum activity.
This work is entrenched in the Safety Forum, and has an important function in helping to give the different sides a common understanding of the industry’s status and challenges.
The trend has been in the right direction from 2000, when the RNNP measurements began, until the latest figures were published in 2014. Findings for last year are due on 18 April 2016.
While the industry has clearly cut risk in many areas over this period, it’s important to remember that a number of serious incidents and near misses have also occurred at home and abroad.
That illustrates the big risk potential involved in the petroleum sector.
Can we ever say we’re content?
While good results must be acclaimed, we can never be fully content. Self-satisfaction is dangerous, and safety will always be a perishable commodity.
The fact that we’ve succeeded in achieving improvements is no guarantee of what the level of safety will be in the future.
At difficult times like these, some might think that what we’ve got must be good enough. Many of them look to the past and say the solutions we had back then should be OK now.
But going back to older solutions is hardly positive, either financially or in safety terms. The industry has got to look ahead.
It must develop new solutions and think always in terms of progress. Today’s regulations mustn’t block innovative thinking, as long as the approaches proposed strengthen safety.
How has the goal been affected by the downturn?
Let’s be completely clear. The ambition of being the world leader also applies in times like these, with downsizing, cost cuts and declining investment.
We understand that companies must save money, but don’t accept that this must be at the expense of HSE. The demand for continuous improvement applies to all phases of the industry.
Cost-cutting measures must also help to enhance safe operation.