Contractors Need Improvement to Provide Better Safety in Petroleum Sector
Contractors need a robust organisation, clear roles and responsibilities, a willingness to learn and continuous improvement to help improve safety in the petroleum sector.
That message emerged from a one-day seminar staged by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) on this subject, which includes reducing the risk of major accidents.
“We have many good reasons for auditing and conducting a dialogue with contractors,” said PSA supervision director Finn Carlsen when opening the meeting on 18 October at the authority’s Stavanger offices.
“One of the most important of these is the fact that such companies are responsible for most of the people working at oil industry facilities both offshore and land.”
He noted that the Montara and Macondo disasters, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, have highlighted the crucial need for all players to have a robust organisation.
This must possess a deep understanding of risk, where barriers and barrier management occupy a central place.
But Mr Carlsen maintained that contractors still have some way to go in becoming fully conscious of their own role in preventing major accidents.
Good collaboration, clear roles and responsibilities, and the duty to facilitate – which derives from the operator’s compliance responsibility – were emphasised by a speaker from Statoil.
She also stressed the importance of leadership and of compliance with the regulations by both operator and contractor.
For their part, contractor representatives noted that requirements set by both government and operators contributed to recognition and enhanced awareness – not least of leadership and the regulations.
The speaker from a well service company also stressed that increasing demands for documentation and differing interpretation of the regulations by customers presented new challenges.
Maintenance contractors were involved in half the notifiable incidents with a major accident potential in the Norwegian petroleum sector during 2010.
This means that the industry needs to give weight to safety work in general and maintenance of safety-critical equipment in particular.
During the seminar, contractors were urged to learn the lessons from the Macondo accident, and to give priority to work on reducing major accident risk from their perspective.
The PSA has found that little is done among contractors to communicate on or seek out lessons learning and the impact of such learning.
This could reflect the fact that they are under pressure from many players and therefore get good at acting quickly – but less efficient at sharing experience in-house or across the industry.
Supervisory audits of well service contractors have revealed ignorance of the regulations and of the systems intended to ensure compliance with them.
At the seminar, it was made clear that this has been a wake-up call. Several companies noted that a number of processes have been initiated to secure long-term and continuous improvement.
The seminar learnt of the PSA’s experience in seeking to achieve genuine employee participation, both in the industry as a whole and in the individual company.
A number of challeges in this area were identified within the contractor segment as such and at the interface between operators and contractors.
These include coordinating efforts to enhance industrial safety and the working environment, training, and the understanding of roles.
Speakers also stressed the importance of living up to the regulatory ambition of implementing democratic principles such as influence and participation, based on genuine involvement and mutual trust.
Source: PSA, October 21, 2011