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September 21, 2008

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International- Lessons being lost in offshore sector

Twenty years on from the Piper Alpha explosion, and the oil and gas sector is failing to apply the lessons learned in the aftermath of the disaster, industry chiefs have been told.

At an international summit last week, organised by the North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum (NSOAF), regulators and industry discussed a number of health and safety challenges facing the offshore industry. And the key message delivered to senior managers in the sector was to learn from your mistakes, and learn from others.

Speaking at the conference, Magne Ognedal, director-general of Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority, said: “The hard-learned lessons from catastrophic incidents like the Alexander Kielland capsizing and Piper Alpha explosion and fire seem to be getting forgotten by the industry. This must be addressed because improvements in the issue of process safety. . . are badly needed.

“It is the responsibility of industry supported by the regulator to do so, and a key step towards achieving this is for the lessons to be known and understood inside a company, between companies, inside regulators, and between regulators.”

Jan De Jong, inspector-general of Dutch State Supervision of Mines, focused on asset integrity and the lessons the offshore industry can learn from BP’s Texas refinery explosion in 2005. He told delegates: “To improve process safety the offshore industry needs to apply the same attention to major hazards offshore that was present immediately after the Piper Alpha disaster.”

Learning from other major-hazards companies and industries was the key message expounded by Anne Hojer Simonsen, deputy-director general of the Danish Energy Agency. She commented: “To be a zero-incident industry we need to learn from best practices not only in the offshore industry but also from other industries in the North Sea countries, and in other parts of the world.”

She continued: “Our success in achieving this best practice can be gauged by using the right key performance indicators (KPIs). These enable the industry to identify weaknesses in its own process-safety management systems, and allow appropriate actions to be taken before a catastrophic incident can happen. It is, therefore, essential that we focus on further development of KPIs in the offshore sector.”

Finally, stressing the importance of strong and active leadership, Ian Whewell, head of the HSE’s Offshore Division, told delegates that those who create risks are best placed to manage them.

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