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RNNP 2017: major accident risk down, employee concerns up

Figures from the 2017 study on trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) show progress for a number of risk indicators. But serious personal injuries are growing, while feedback on the working environment, the HSE climate and perceived risk is moving in the wrong direction.

“The results show a positive trend for the major accident risk indicator, with fewer incidents and a reduced potential,” says Anne Myhrvold, director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), which produces the RNNP.

“On the other hand, we now see an increase in the number of serious personal injuries on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS). Employees also have a more negative view than before of several conditions related to managing health, safety and the environment (HSE) and to the working environment.

“The industry must ensure that the good progress made in reducing the major accident risk continues. At the same time, it’s important to get to grips with the developments which now point in a negative direction.”

Major accidents
The RNNP findings reveal positive trends on major accident indicators such as hydrocarbon leaks plus well-control and construction incidents on the NCS. Incidents with a major accident potential are also in decline at the land-based plants.

Overall, incidents were at the lowest level since measurements began. The potential of those which did occur was lower than in previous years. This also helped to ensure that the total indicator for major accidents on the NCS again moved in the right direction.

“In 2015 and 2016, we saw an increase in the major accident indicator compared with previous years,” says Myhrvold. “That gave grounds for concern – and was part of the reason why we adopted ‘reversing the trend’ as our main issue for 2017. The RNNP figures now show that the indicator is back at a lower level. The trend looks good.

“At the same time, we know that historical information has limited value with regard to the risk picture. It’s therefore important that the parties pay continuous attention to good safety work.

“Reducing the major accident risk won’t just happen. It’s now important that good results don’t become a cushion, but that the industry continues its systematic efforts to improve major accident risk.”

One fatality
A single fatal accident was experienced in the PSA’s area of responsibility during 2017. This occurred on 7 December during a maintenance operation on the Maersk Interceptor drilling rig.

The lifting gear failed while positioning a seawater pump, one person fell to the sea and died while another was injured by scaffolding. Both the companies involved and the PSA have investigated this event.

“It was a tragic accident, and getting to the bottom of the causes and learning from what had happened are important,” Myhrvold emphasises.

Injuries up
During 2017, 205 reportable personal injuries were recorded on the NCS. Twenty-seven of these were classified as serious. The comparable figures for 2016 were 189 and 17 respectively.

“Unfortunately, the RNNP data show that serious personal injuries on the NCS are increasing,” says Myhrvold. “After several years of decline, we see that there’s been a rise every year since 2013 with the exception of 2016. That’s worrying.”

Serious personal injuries per million hours worked offshore rose significantly, from 0.49 in 2016 to 0.81 last year. The injury frequency at land-based plants was somewhat lower in 2017 than the year before.

An extensive questionnaire-based survey was conducted for the ninth time among workers on the NCS and at the land-based plants during 2017. This poll has taken place biennially since 2001.

The offshore results reveal a negative trend from 2015 to last year. That applies to the HSE climate, perceived risk, the working environment and health-related issues.

Some of the main findings are:

  • the HMS climate indicators were generally assessed to have worsened from 2015 to 2017
  • overall, the perception of danger was greater in 2017 than in the previous survey
  • the assessment of the working environment showed a significantly worse result for the majority of the indicators than in 2015 – including the physical, chemical, ergonomics, psychosocial and organisational working environment.

The picture is more diverse at the land-based plants. While the main tendency is the same, a number of the indicators were at the same level as in the 2015 survey.

Wrong way
“Why do more offshore employees believe that risk has risen and the HSE climate has worsened?” Myhrvold asks. “We don’t know the answer yet, but can only note that developments are going the wrong way. That’s something we’ll be looking at more closely in our supervisory activities.

“I also expect the industry to get to grips with this. The companies must use the RNNP results and their own data to identify why these reverses are happening in some key areas, understand which responses have a positive effect, reinforce positive results, and ensure knowledge which can yield improvements is communicated.”

She points to the HSE White Paper which labour and social affairs minister Anniken Hauglie presented to the Storting (parliament) at the beginning of April. This concludes that the level of safety on the NCS is high and has developed positively over time.

“At the same time, clear expectations are expressed for the industry’s work on strengthening safety and the working environment,” Myhrvold notes. “The goal is that Norway’s petroleum sector will be a world leader for HSE. That creates an obligation.”