NSOAF Audits North Sea Crane/Lifting Operations

An international working group established by the North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum (NSOAF) has carried out a series of crane/lift audits of players engaged in petroleum activities on at least two continental shelves. The purpose of the audits was to identify common challenges within the field of cranes/lifting in the North Sea basin.

Use of lifting appliances and lifting gear represents a substantial risk to exposed occupations such as crane operators, deck operators, riggers, seamen and others who are involved in materials handling/crane and lifting operations.

If major accidents such a Piper Alpha and Alexander Kielland are excluded, almost 50% of all fatal incidents in the offshore petroleum activities are related to crane and lifting operations/materials handling.

As serious incidents in connection with lifting operations pose a challenge on all continental shelves in the North Sea, the NSOAF task force for health, safety and the environment has established a project group to examine lifting equipment and lifting operations.

This forms part of a government strategy to put lifting operations on the international agenda:

In parallel with the NSOAF project, the International Regulators Forum (IRF), where the petroleum authorities in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil are among the members, have taken an initiative in the field of lifting operations.

Common for both projects is that they are based on the authorities' concern and the industry's challenges related to cranes/lifting, as described in e.g. the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway's analysis of crane incidents (the 2005 Scanpower study) and the IRF's report "Generic report on offshore lifting and mechanical handling issues."

The purpose of the project has been to implement a series of multi-national crane/lift audits directed at players engaged in petroleum activities on at least two shelves. The audits must be carried out with a common format in order to summarize them. The project group used common inspection templates during the audits. These were based on templates prepared by the UK authorities (Health and Safety Executive) and the IRF's lifting group.

In total, 11 audits were carried out on fixed and mobile facilities by Danish, Norwegian, Dutch and German authorities. One audit was carried out by German and Dutch authorities jointly.

The inspections have shown that the industry must improve procedures, routines and work processes within: planning, use and control of lifting appliance and lifting gear; safe work system; risk assessment; training and competence; supervision of lifting operations.

OMHEC (Offshore Mechanical Handling Equipment Committee), an international professional forum in the field of cranes/lifting where the authorities have a key role, has been assigned by NSOAF the task of revising existing guidelines and, if relevant, prepare new ones in the five main areas where the NSOAF audits have identified weaknesses.

The report from the audits will be presented during "the NSOAF second joint industry meeting" in the Hague in February.