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BSEE Finishes Final Offshore Workplace Safety Rule

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The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has completed the Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) II final rule, which enhances the original SEMS rule, or Workplace Safety Rule issued in October 2010.

SEMS II, which was made available Thursday in the Federal Register Reading Room, is the latest step in BSEE's efforts to further identify, address and manage operational safety hazards and impacts, with the goal of enhancing both human safety and environmental protection on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, BSEE Director Jim Watson said in a statement.

Since the Deepwater Horizon incident in April 2010, the Obama administration has implemented a number of regulatory reforms to enhance safety and environmental protection.

"Offshore oil and gas safety starts with a robust positive safety culture, and BSEE's workplace safety rules are designed to promote that culture by eliminating complacency and making sure that companies are looking at the human factors that underlie too many accidents," Watson commented. "This effort takes another important step towards protecting workers and the environment from preventable accidents."

The SEMS II final rule will take effect June 4, but does not affect an operator's first audit cycle.  Except of the auditing requirements, operators have until June 4, 2014 to comply with the provisions of SEMS II. All SEMS audits must be in compliance with the SEMS II Rule by June 4, 2015.

SEMS II will supplement operators' SEMS programs with greater employee participation, empowering field level personnel with safety management decisions, and strengthening oversight by requiring audits to be conducted by accredited third-parties, Watson said.

The Workplace Safety Rule, which took effect Nov. 15, 2010, encompasses all offshore oil and gas operations in federal waters and made mandatory the previously voluntary practices in the American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practice 75. Operators were required to implement a SEMS program by Nov. 15, 2011 and must still submit their first completed SEMS audit to BSEE by Nov. 15, 2013.

Additional safety requirements contained in SEMS II that were not covered in previous regulations include:

  • Developing and implementing a stop work authority that creates procedures and authorizes any and all offshore industry personnel who see an imminent risk or dangerous activity to stop work
  • Developing and implementing an ultimate work authority that requires offshore industry operators to clearly define who has the ultimate work authority on a facility for operational safety and decision-making at any given time
  • Requiring an employee participation plan that provides an environment that promotes participation by offshore industry employees and management to eliminate or mitigate safety hazards
  • Establishing guidelines for reporting unsafe working conditions that enable offshore industry personnel to report possible violations of safety, environmental regulations requirements, and threats of danger directly to BSEE
  • Establishing additional requirements for conducting a job safety analysis
  • Requiring the team lead for an audit be independent and represent an accredited audit service provider

BSEE is now analyzing comments received on the Draft Safety Culture Policy Statement prior to the release of the final Safety Culture Policy Statement. Released last December, the draft statement was created to provide a common definition by everyone working offshore. The policy statement outlined BSEE's approach to safety culture and was meant to inform the offshore community of BSEE's safety expectations.



Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com.

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