"The heart of a good reputation is an honest, responsible and open industry which operates safely", says PSA director general Anne Myhrvold. “It’s created by behaviour, not rhetoric.”
Fine words achieve nothing
A criticism sometimes levelled at the PSA is that its concentration on risk and accidents helps to damage the petroleum sector’s standing.
“The industry’s most important job is to run its business prudently and ensure that it avoids harm to people, the environment and material values,” Myhrvold observes.
“What would really hit its reputation, and be the worst which could happen, are major accidents, serious incidents, injuries and ill-health among the workforce.”
She emphasises that it is not a goal in itself for the PSA to ensure a good reputation for the petroleum industry.
“But it’ll acquire esteem by working safely. Since we work for the safest possible activity and continuous improvement, we’re indirectly a driving force for a positive standing.”
The public debate on the industry’s reputation over the past couple of years has concentrated particularly on two aspects, Myhrvold notes.
“These are climate and the industry’s future in light of that challenge, and the oil price slump with the consequent decline in activity, cost cuts and downsizing.
“The factors which affect the reputation of the sector can also influence its priorities and the way the companies work. That can in turn affect the risk picture – and our own priorities.”
She says that the PSA’s job is to keep abreast and to investigate whether the challenges and the changes being made have an impact on safety.
“At the same time, I must add that a good reputation for the industry will also make a positive contribution to safety work. All improvements are easier if you’re well regarded.
“I believe the sector’s good name is closely related to such concepts as honesty, responsibility, openness and safety.”
"It is not a goal in itself for the PSA to ensure a good reputation for the petroleum industry. But it’ll acquire esteem by working safely. Since we work for the safest possible activity and continuous improvement, we’re indirectly a driving force for a positive standing.”
Myhrvold stresses that the PSA as a government authority is also dependent on a strong reputation, and particularly on being trusted.
“Trust is essential for collaboration between all sides of the industry – government, unions and employers. It’s a serious matter if anyone has reason to cast doubt on our impartiality or trustworthiness, or on the quality of the job we do.”
In her view, cooperation between the three main sides of the petroleum sector functions well. “We don’t always agree, but we always work towards the same goal – avoiding accidents and harm.
“A well-functioning tripartite collaboration, built on trust and openness, is crucial if the industry is to continue delivering good results on safety and the working environment.”
Myhrvold is used to criticism from the industry. Not all PSA decisions are popular, but nor is it her job or that of the authority as a whole to be as popular as possible.
“This is a matter of fulfilling our assignment in the best possible way. That occasionally requires us to take unwelcome steps.
“We’re a clear-spoken and independent regulator, and need to take many considerations into account. We must live with criticism, no matter where it comes from.
“The most important thing for me is that we discharge our responsibilities in the best possible way. We must come across as credible when developing regulations and exercising supervision.”
Publishing the results of verification and audits openly on the web is another PSA practice which fails to attract equal understanding from everyone in the business.
“Sharing reports is important for spreading knowledge and experience in the industry,” says Myhrvold. “Our publication strategy is openness in practice, and I believe this helps to strengthen the sector’s reputation.”
She points out that an important part of the PSA’s job is to supervise that the companies pursue their activities prudently – and to use the instruments available to it when they do not.
"The factors which affects the reputation of the sector can also influence its priorities and the way the companies work. That can in turn affect the risk picture - and the PSA's own priorities."
“Our role is to contribute to learning and improvement in those areas which are not in compliance with the regulations. So our audit reports focus on findings which are critical of company operations, not on everything they do right.
“In many other contexts, we’re concerned to highlight the expertise of and solid work done by the companies. That’s an important part of the overall picture.”