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March 28, 2011

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HSE due to report on offshore safety-culture findings

The results of an HSE inspection project examining the safety culture – in particular, the role of safety reps – on offshore installations are expected to be revealed this spring.

Over the last year, the HSE has been looking at what safety-culture improvements can be made on oil and gas installations. As well as undertaking inspections, the watchdog has been working with industry and unions in the Workforce Involvement Group of the Offshore Industry Advisory Committee to identify what more can be done to ensure safety reps are not discouraged from reporting a potential, or real hazard.

Consideration has also been given to what, if any, changes are needed to the Offshore Installations (Safety Representatives and Safety Committees) Regulations 1989.

These and other measures were outlined by the Government last week, as part of its response to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee’s report on UK deepwater drilling and the implications of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Published in January, the Committee’s report expressed concerns that the industry is responding to disasters, rather than anticipating worst-case scenarios and planning for high-consequence, low-probability events.

In its response, the Government pointed out that the HSE’s Key Programme 3 Review, published in 2009, revealed the industry had made improvements in this area. However, in light of the Committee’s concerns, the Government has now promised that the HSE will work with industry and the unions to identify whether any additional steps are necessary to build on these improvements – including, for example, the need for additional industry guidance or training, or increased industry supervision.

The Committee also highlighted the importance that someone offshore should hold the power, at any time, to bring a halt to drilling operations, and that safeguarding workers and the environment are the prime duties of such individuals. With this in mind, the HSE is to encourage industry to look for opportunities to test the effectiveness of their communication approaches in this regard – possibly during emergency drills and broader offshore exercise scenarios.

The HSE will also consider the scope for enhancing the UK’s regulatory framework to assure the adequacy and reliability of safety-critical equipment, on top of exploring whether the rules should be refined to improve oversight of the industry’s performance in monitoring the safe operation of equipment.

The full Government response can be found on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee’s website at:

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