Good collaboration between employers and employees has helped to boost the level of safety in Norway’s petroleum industry, says PSA supervision director Ingvill H Foss. “Such interaction now appears to be under pressure, and that’s a matter of concern.”
Much safer working together
Both bi- and tripartite relationships play a significant role in the Norwegian administrative model. A positive collaborative climate and real employee participation are good for work on HSE.
Inter-party collaboration is an area of special focus for the 2017 main issue of reversing the trend.
“When the parties join forces, workers can complement management’s perspective to provide a sound basis for making difficult choices,” says Foss. “And once made, the decisions are well entrenched with rank and file.
“Our goal is to see genuine employee participation in every company by the end of 2017, giving the industry better decision processes and a reduced risk of injuries and major accidents.”
Increased pressure on inter-party collaboration worries the PSA, she affirms. “Changes and demands for greater efficiency raise the level of conflict.
“We’re more often seeing inadequate provision for employee participation, and whistleblowing reports reinforces this picture. Particular challenges exist at the interface between operators and contractors.
“Lack of collaboration can result in a weaker decision basis, poorer decisions, insufficient entrenchment in the workforce and a decline in HSE.
“A joint effort between management and union officials and between company and safety delegates is needed to get inter-party cooperation to function.”
Foss emphasises that the PSA wants to help focus greater attention on employee participation as an important precondition for integrated work on HSE and risk.
“This year, we’ll be concentrating primarily on the role of safety delegates – ensuring that companies allow them the time to do their job and involve employees in key decision processes.
“It’s important that the workforce is brought in early enough, with adequate resources, and that they acquire the necessary expertise in advance to do the work well enough.”
She explains that the PSA will also be looking in 2017 at the role of company working environment committees (AMU), the in-house use made of this arena and the experience gained with it.
“Our concerns in this area include the relationship between the safety delegates and the AMU, as well as expertise and understanding of roles.
“The challenges are particularly great at the interface between operators and contractors. So we’ll be focusing attention on collaboration between industry players. Whistleblowing and other input from employees will be another priority.”
Pressure on collaboration between the parties in the petroleum industry – employers, employees and government – has increased. That applies particularly to bipartite cooperation by companies and unions. Such relationships are fundamental to safety work, and weakening them could leave company managements with a weaker basis for important decisions and mean that important choices of direction are less firmly entrenched in the workforce.
Bipartite collaboration in the Norwegian model occurs at company level, between employer and employees. Statutory requirements such as an AMU, safety delegates and union officials play key roles.
When government agencies are also involved, the relationship becomes tripartite between these authorities, the employer organisations and the unions.
Several permanent fora in the petroleum sector allow the various sides to work together, with the Safety and Regulatory Fora and Working Together for Safety as the most important.
“Our impression is that these tripartite arenas function well,” says PSA supervision director Ingvill H Foss. “Important issues are addressed there, and discussions are good.
“So we’re now particularly concerned with bipartite collaboration, and especially with company managements making provision for genuine employee participation.”
“The responsible party shall ensure that the employees and their elected representatives are given the opportunity to participate in matters of importance for the working environment and safety in the petroleum activities, according to requirements stipulated by and pursuant to the Working Environment Act and these regulations. Such participation shall be ensured in all the various phases of the activities.”
Section 13 of the framework regulations on facilitating employee participation.