Center for Offshore Safety Recognized for SEMS Audits

Recent federal regulatory changes now require U.S. Outer Continental Shelf operators to use accredited and independent third parties to audit their safety programs.

The Center for Offshore Safety (COS), which has already certified more than 70 companies, has been recognized by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) as the first and currently only official accreditation body for audit service providers.

Previously, companies either performed their own safety audits or would voluntarily use a third party auditors. The June 5 changes to BSEE regulations now means that SEMS audits conducted on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf must be in compliance with the SEMS II Rule, which requires that the team lead for an audit be independent and represent an accredited audit service provider. SEMS II, finalized in April 2013, is intended to enhance the original SEMS rule, or Workplace Safety Rule, issued in October 2010 in response to the Deepwater Horizon incident earlier that year. SEMS II took effect last year, but did not impact the first audit cycle.

Charlie Williams, executive director for COS, told Rigzone that COS already had been accrediting audit providers for its members. Now, it will provide for accreditation for any audit service providers. COS is working on auditor training for individual auditors, and already has in place auditing training for companies. Williams said that COS is looking forward to working with BSEE on the common goal of developing good audit service providers.

COS’ member roster includes 13 operators. While that number is small versus the 84 OCS operators required to do BSEE audits, these 13 companies represent the bulk of activity in the Gulf of Mexico. COS also has a lot of contractors who are members, who also have already started voluntarily using COS’ third party accredited auditors for SEMS audits.

“We think this is an important thing in the industry, as the regulations indirectly cover contractors. Here is the perfect way to show how we as contractors have good safety management programs.”

Much of the industry discussions following Deepwater Horizon focused on the fact that 80 percent of staff hours were tied to contractor activity.

“One of the keys to safety management going forward will be to ensure operators and contractors will be able to seamlessly management operations.”

COS recently completed its first annual report. By collecting safety data from its members, COS was able to identify areas that could benefit from improved safety management. Williams said that COS is starting to develop plans for best practices for industry, including best practices for work management, or ensuring operations remains safe in spite of changes.

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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