HSE Asking Offshore Industry to Increase Efforts to Meet 2010 Safety Target

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) urged the offshore oil and gas industry to increase its efforts to meet the 2010 target of safest sector in the world, as set by the industry's own Step Change in Safety initiative.

Speaking at the Offshore Europe 2005 exhibition in Aberdeen, Taf Powell, head of HSE's Offshore Division, said: "I am taking the opportunity to re-emphasise the link between good health and safety and good business in the offshore industry and the extension of good business to the sustainability, in the long term, of the industry itself.

"Investment in safety not only reduces the tragic toll of personal suffering but is an investment in the future of the industry and we are calling for an increased pace of improvement to meet the industry's own targets and secure for Britain a safer working environment offshore and, as a by-product of that, a sustainable offshore infrastructure."

As a result, HSE is calling on industry to review the action it is taking. "Industry is very good at analysis and audit but some are less effective in following that through. Action is needed now by all players to tackle the fundamental issues offshore. This year's safety statistics are frustratingly flat, and while I'm confident the industry is heading in the right direction, the pace of change is not fast enough and action is needed now", said Powell.

HSE has identified a number of key challenges:

  • Increased partnership working, which means the active involvement of all who operate and work offshore, not just those in harm's way, but those that let contracts, allocate resources, perform technical authority 'on the beach' and set budgets in the boardroom;
  • Investment in ageing infrastructure and the working environment, including worker accommodation;
  • Investment in people to sustain the skills and experience vital for safe operation, e.g. treating issues like workforce welfare and consultation as core corporate values; and
  • Improved management of the supply chain to create increased capacity in human resources and technical innovation.

Powell explained: "I realise these are not easy issues to tackle, there are no quick fixes to achieve a solution. Partnership working for example must be extended to encompass everyone in the organisation to engender ownership.

"HSE and industry have real concerns about loss of experience and skills which have clearly derived from previous short-term outlook among the major operators which shouldn't be allowed to recur. We are currently undertaking a first base examination of the offshore supply chain and contractor issues, including the bidding process. Again, I have genuine concerns that immediate commercial forces and the relationship with safety and long-term sustainability need examining."

Margaret Burns from the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), HSE's parent body, joined Powell at Offshore Europe. Burns said: "The Commission welcomes the oil industry's commitment to making this sector the safest in the world. This fits in with our vision that Great Britain should lead the world in health and safety performance. The question we all need to focus on is what do we and the industry have to do to make this happen."

In recent years HSE's Offshore Division has been examining core safety critical systems and fundamental management issues to deal with the safety and health shortfalls in the offshore industry. This is in direct response to the conditions that inspectors are encountering. For example, OSD's key program on offshore installation integrity is into its second year of a four-year program and is representative of the modern integrated approach that HSE is taking to regulation. The program of inspection and joint initiatives is supported by specific guidance and assistance and is very much a partnership approach. HSE, however, will not hesitate to take enforcement action when it is warranted and industry can expect an intensive program of inspection, as resources are concentrated on problematic areas.

Commenting on the program, Powell said: "HSE has focused considerable resource into the installation integrity program, and we are already starting to see positive results. We notice industry is giving a strong lead and generating impetus for action."

Powell concluded: "The Government and industry wants to be the safest on the globe by the end of the decade. But to achieve it, we need to think outside the box and examine the integrated picture of conditions offshore and its impact on safety and health, reliability, operability and sustainability."

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