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Leadership has obligations

The PSA has been paying special attention for a decade to the way company managements seek to reduce major accident and working environment risk. This commitment will continue even though it is no longer a main priority.

Supervising management and the responsibility of top executives for risk reduction is a key issue and plays a part in many of the PSA’s activities, says Bjørn Andreas Hanson.

He was the project manager for the authority’s main priority of management responsibility until the commitment concluded in this form at the end of 2016.

Management responsibility has been one of the PSA’s four main priorities in 2016. Now that the authority is concentrating on a single issue in 2017 – reversing the trend – the main priorities are being phased out. .

The safety obligations of leadership has attracted the PSA’s attention for many years, and was a main priority from 2007.

The approach has varied somewhat, and long concentrated particularly on the responsibility of senior executive for reducing major accident risk.

“This reflected the fact that management often emerges as a critical underlying cause of accidents and undesirable incidents,” explains Hanson.

As an example, he cites the 15 people killed and almost 200 injured when BP’s Texas City refinery in the USA caught fire in 2005. Management was castigated by the subsequent inquiry.

“The official investigation showed that executives at various levels in the company had received a lot of information about negative conditions at the facility.

“Overall, this input could have averted the accident. But management failed to understand that the information also related to major accident risk, and responded inadequately to it.”

“Management shortfalls have also been a recurrent finding in our audit and investigation reports from Norway’s petroleum sector,” Hanson notes, and points to several incidents in recent years which could have unleashed a major accident.

“Through this main priority, we’ve challenged managements and their work on reducing major accident risk in various ways – such as the significance of this type of risk for strategic choices.

“That’s required them to identify risk ownership, information, goals and effects related to this aspect. Other concerns have been operating parameters and how management handles change.

“In addition, we’ve conducted studies and seminars which have also helped to raise awareness in the companies about management’s role in achieving prudent operation.”

The PSA’s main priority of management and major accident risk was changed in 2015 to management responsibility, which widened the focus to include reducing working environment risk.

Following up the industry’s work on efficiency enhancements and cost reductions was also an important part of the PSA’s efforts under this main priority from 2015.

The goal was and remains to help the industry maintain and further develop a high level of HSE under changed operating parameters.

“Improving the accountability of management is an area where we can never say that the goal has been met,” says Hanson, and emphasises that the PSA’s work on this issue will continue.

“Maintaining and further developing a high level of safety and a good HSE culture in the petroleum sector calls for a continuous and active commitment.

“Nobody must be responsible for pursuing an activity unless they have an adequate grasp of the risk picture.

“Management involves ensuring that safety requirements are understood and complied with throughout the organisation – here and now, every single day.”

Looking at leading

During the decade when management’s role was a main priority, the PSA has addressed this issue from a variety of angles.

How management decisions and initiatives define operating parameters which are significant for reducing major accident risk

  • —   Clear division of responsibility for preventing major accidents
  • —   Internal follow-up in the companies
  • —   Capacity and expertise
  • —   Employee participation
  • —   Change processes
  • —   Continuous improvement
  • —   Learning lesson and effects