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The industry must find the key to better safety

Magne Ognedal believes the industry must to a greater extent define the obstacles that prevent a reduction in the risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activities.

"Something is keeping us from getting better. What is this something, and how is it standing in the way of ensuring that hazardous activities can be carried out safely?"
This was the challenge issued by Ognedal during the Offshore Operations and Maintenance 2006 conference (the ODV conference) under the direction of the Norwegian Petroleum Society.

What is holding us back?
The director of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway painted a picture of the risk level, as it emerges in the project entitled "Trends in risk levels - Norwegian shelf " (RNNS). He emphasized that the results do not indicate any clear, continuous improvement. So far, the ambition of petroleum activities on the Norwegian shelf leading the world as regards HSE remains unfulfilled.

"From the PSA's perspective, there is potential risk associated with the oil and gas activities. The lack of positive development in risk levels is a challenge," says Ognedal.

At the ODV conference, Ognedal therefore talked about the importance of finding out what is holding back the petroleum activities from becoming better. He pointed out how important it is that the industry itself identifies what is not working.

The overall indicator for major accidents is unchanged, showing only a modest reduction compared with previous years (2004). Some indicators that contribute to the risk of major accidents have been reduced, e.g. hydrocarbon leaks. Others have exhibited an increase, such as collisions between field-related vessels and facilities. Magne Ognedal also referred to the fact that there has been an increase in the number of serious accidents involving personnel in 2005, and that the average is at the same level as the ten previous years.

"Could it be the case that safety measures, both technical and organizational, create the illusion that the activities are safer? And what then are the consequences of individuals, organizations and management underestimating the fact that they still carry out risk-based activities," Ognedal emphasized. He pointed out that such misconceptions can result in blocking of necessary measures, or even quite simply diverting the attention of the players away from the risk of major accidents.

Believes in new advances
Ognedal also emphasized that clear goals for reducing the risk level have yielded results. He believes that the industry embraced the PSA's challenge to reduce the number of hydrocarbon leaks, and demonstrated that it could incorporate this goal as its own.

During the period 2003-2005, leakages were reduced by 50 percent - compared with the three previous years. "That is why we call 2003 a turning point for achieving results," says Ognedal. Nevertheless, there have been several serious incidents in recent years, such as the blowout on Snorre A. Ognedal feels that this illustrates that the work does not have an automatic effect on the risk of major accidents, but he does have faith that there will be a new, significant advance in the right direction.

"This requires, however, that the individual players are able to define the obstacles impeding greater safety, based on their own circumstances," he adds.

At the ODV conference, Ognedal continued to challenge his audience to find answers. "We cautiously ask ourselves the question: Could a primary factor be that players distance themselves from the fact that they are carrying out hazardous activities, because precautions have already been taken to ensure prudent operations?"

Magne Ognedal also presented an audit task particularly aimed at management conditions for carrying out safe operations. (Read more about the audit task "Major accident risk" In Norwegian)

The ODV conference held in Bergen on 18-19 October drew more than 200 participants, and had particular focus on HSE and loss of production.

Contact in the PSA:
Inger Anda, press spokesperson
E-mail: inger.anda@ptil.no
Telephone: +47 970 54 064