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Looking for lessons

Eight serious incidents offshore and on land were investigated by the PSA in 2016. The first specific examples that cost cuts are among the causes of such events have now be detected.

“Investigations are an important part of our work on preventing serious incidents,” explains Ingvill H Foss, one of the PSA’s directors of supervision.

“These inquiries are not primarily about finding fault, but seek to understand an incident so that they can contribute to learning.”

The number of investigations conducted by the PSA varies from year to year. There were 10 in 2015, for example. A number of the events scrutinised last year could have resulted in fatalities.

Many people have asked whether a connection exists between serious incidents and the substantial cost cuts and major efficiency processes which characterised the past year.

“The answer’s both yes and no,” Foss says emphatically. “We’ve carefully reviewed our investigations in 2015 and 2016 in search of common denominators.

“Both the gas leak at Mongstad and the serious well control incident on Troll are examples of events where cost cuts are part of the causal picture.

“The other incidents have few features in common, and we can’t see any clear connection with cost cuts in the industry. But the concern remains, and we’re continuing to follow up.”

A surprisingly large number of incidents in 2016 were concentrated in a short period, with four occurring during a few days in October.

“Statoil was the operator in six of the cases which prompted us to investigate,” observes Foss. “It therefore has a key job to assess underlying causes and look for connections – and not least to identify whether any of the incidents relate to cost cuts.”

The PSA’s investigations help to draw important lessons, both for the authority itself and for the industry as a whole.

“We integrate findings from these inquiries into our general supervision,” reports Foss. “It’s important to make assessments across the sector.

“All investigation reports are also published on our websites, and many companies utilise them in their improvement work.”

“We primarily look into the most serious incidents, but can also examine circumstances which offer a particular potential for learning,” she says.

“We may choose to investigate if new issues are involved, for example, or if it is particularly important to identify the direct causes. That’s assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

Investigations in 2016:

  • Gas leak at Kårstø – 7 January

  • Well control incident on Visund – 18 March

  • Serious personal injury on Goliat – 27 June

  • Gas leak at the Sture terminal – 12 October

  • Well control incident on Songa Endurance – 15 October

  • Fire in utility shaft on Statfjord A – 16 October

  • Gas leak at Mongstad – 25 October

  • Fire in the engine room on Scarabeo 5 – 22 November

Reports from these investigations can be found at