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Audit of the work situation for drillers on Valhall

During the period 25-28 April 2006, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) conducted an audit of the work situation for drillers on Valhall IP. This audit revealed three nonconformities in relation to regulatory requirements.

Valhall IP (© BP p.l.c.)

Drilling commenced on Valhall IP (see photo) in 2004, and is carried out by the drilling contractor Smedvig Offshore (Seadrill).

The audit activity was carried out by means of meetings and interviews with drillers at BP Norge's offices at Forus, as well as interviews and verifications on Valhall IP (see photo).

Background for the audit

The PSA shall contribute towards reducing the risk level in the offshore petroleum activities by following up to ensure that the players facilitate the technical and operational integrity of the facilities, as well as follow-up the man-technology-organization (MTO) interaction in systems that are critical from an HSE viewpoint.

This audit is part of the PSA's work to improve Human Factors (HF) in the area of drilling and well operations.

Drillers have responsibilities within tasks such as

  • supervising work on the drill floor,
  • planning and execution of tasks on the drill floor,
  • safeguarding well control.

The driller is also a central provider of information, and thus plays an important role in maintaining the HSE level on the facility.

The question has been asked as to whether changes in technology, layout, organization, etc. have impacted the driller's work situation in such a way that this constitutes a challenge as regards maintaining and further developing HSE performance.

We have therefore decided to conduct audit activities specifically targeting the drillers' work situation.

Purpose of the audit

The purpose of the audit was to evaluate the drillers' work situation in relation to the regulatory requirements. The requirements that form the basis for this audit are:

From the Management Regulations:

  • Section 3 relating to management of health, environment and safety.
  • Section 11 relating to manning and competence.
  • Section 17 relating to analysis of the working environment.
  • Section 21 relating to follow-up.

From the Activities Regulations:

  • Section 29 relating to monitoring and control.
  • Section 31 relating to arrangement of work.
  • Section 33 relating to psychosocial aspects.

Result of the audit

Three nonconformities were observed in relation to:

  • Management of organizational factors during drilling operations.
    During time spent in the driller's cabin and in the interviews, it emerged that the activities were largely managed by drillers who have considerable responsibility and who are assigned many and, in part, demanding tasks. The audit revealed deficiencies in an evaluation carried out when IP commenced operation as a new facility as regards how tasks are distributed and work is organized. Among other things, no professional analysis had been done of the manning needs for the tasks to be executed and the best way to organize the work. Nor can we see that BP has evaluated the HSE consequences associated with the manning and organization it has chosen.
  • Arrangement of drillers' work situation.
    Based on a questionnaire and interviews, it emerged that the drillers felt from time to time that they had conflicting work tasks, and that the large number of inquiries and the fast pace of the work led to situations where they sometimes worked at the limit of what was prudent. Deficient development of competence and training were also mentioned. The drillers' work situation is very complex, both as regards handling the human-machine interface, as well as handling communication, administrative functions and management tasks in the drilling area. The reports received indicate that neither BP nor Smedvig have carried out adequate professional evaluations of the drillers' work situation prior to establishing the current solution. Nor were there any systematic assessments of operational experience and workloads in various types of operations situations. Measures had been implemented to reduce unnecessary alarms. Other than this, no special measures had been introduced to reduce the drillers' workload.
  • Safeguarding HSE linked to technical aspects in the drilling area.
    It emerged in both the verifications and the interviews that the layout of the drill floor was less than practical. The drill floor and pipe deck are cramped. Equipment such as the hydraulic manipulator arm and the work basket were not suitably located. Tight quarters on the drill floor contributed to functional and zone-related restrictions. There was considerable need to "override" the anti-collision system in order to maintain activities and avoid stop and alarm conditions in relation to the requirements of the anti-collision system. Our assessment is that more thorough analyses of the work tasks incorporating human factors competence during design engineering could have contributed to a better layout of the drill floor.

Through our audit, we identified several factors that can improve the drillers' work situation. These were related to

  • alarms,
  • training,
  • procedures,
  • maintenance of drilling equipment,
  • the New Step Procedure work program,
  • implementation of improvements,
  • communication and feedback,
  • use of Norwegian.

During the audit we identified working environment factors that constitute nonconformities in relation to regulatory requirements, but which fall outside of our audit task. The PSA will address these factors in a meeting with the actors.

Positive aspects which apply in general for the Valhall field include the following:

  • BP emphasized taking the time to do things safely, and that everyone has the opportunity to stop and focus on safety in their daily work.
  • Some improvements have been made in the living quarters.
  • The interviews indicated generally good well-being.
  • The operations center on land is perceived as providing good support. However, we see a potential for further development.
  • Most personnel felt that it was possible to bring in additional manning when needed.
  • BP has taken a serious approach to the work to secure lifting operations involving cranes.
  • We received positive feedback regarding the cabin modifications to single-person cabins.
Contact person i the Petroleum Safety Authority
Mike Theiss