Erna Solberg

Erna Solberg, Prime minister of Norway



The Storting (parliament) and government want Norway to be the world leader for health, safety and the environment (HSE) in the petroleum sector. Why is this ambition important?

Our petroleum industry is a pioneer in many ways, both at home and internationally. Constant technological progress, new production solutions and innovative ways of organising the work have been important in achieving a profitable industry, and that’s been important for the country as a whole.

I believe it’s natural that our oil and gas industry also takes the lead on HSE. In Norway, we give perhaps greater weight than other places to avoiding accidents and pollution and to conducting production under safe and prudent conditions.

Everyone must be assertive, innovative and constantly seeking good new solutions which make production safe for workers and the environment while also being efficient.

This means that employees and their unions, licensees, operators, suppliers and the government – in keeping with our good traditions – must jointly develop efficient HSE solutions.

I believe we’re uniquely placed to continue working 

The oil industry is experiencing great changes and challenges in the form of cost cuts and downsizing. Does it nevertheless have room to prioritise work on continuous safety improvements?

Absolutely. Petroleum operations always involve a certain level of risk for major accidents and serious incidents. Neither the industry nor Norway can afford a major accident.

That applies naturally not only in purely human and environmental terms but also economically and for our national reputation.

There’s only one method which we know works for avoiding such accidents, and that’s systematic and thorough work to improve HSE.

 

Oil and gas have been crucial for Norway’s progress in recent decades. How significant will this industry be for the country in the years to come? And how important will it be to maintain the present level of safety?

The government and I have great faith in the future of the Norwegian petroleum sector. We’ve demonstrated this by making new acreage available both through the annual awards in predefined areas (APA) and in the 23rd licensing round.

Oil and gas is expected to continue contributing to growth and expertise development. However, this depends on safety being maintained at all times.

That was also a key topic when I visited the PSA in Stavanger last autumn. It’s not only important to maintain the present level of safety – this must also be further enhanced in line with the general development of the industry.

Ingen effektivisering og kostnadskutt skal gå på bekostning av helse, miljø og sikkerhet.

The PSA’s annual study of trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) for 2015 sounded in many respects a warning, with a number of important indicators moving the wrong way. Last December, the petroleum sector experienced its first fatal accident since 2009, and 13 people died in April’s helicopter accident off Turøy. Have you any thoughts, as prime minister, about the way the industry should work to prevent accidents and maintain the level of safety in the future?

The fatality on COSLInnovator and the Turøy helicopter accident were tragic incidents which affect the whole nation. They serve as brutal reminders of how important it is that safety always comes first in both petroleum and aviation sectors.

The PSA has reported an unusual number of incidents and a weak but systematically negative trend in 2015. That’s worrying. I expect both employers and unions in the industry as well as the responsible authorities to have the right ideas, as well as the willingness and expertise, to shift developments onto a more positive track.

No efficiency improvements and cost cuts must be made at the expense of HSE. I would urge everyone to collaborate both at company level as well as in the fora established to bring all sides together.

We have earlier seen employers and unions in the petroleum sector managing to reverse a negative trend, and I am confident that they can accomplish this again.