The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has tightened its follow-up of digitalisation initiatives in the industry by operator companies, shipowners and suppliers.

Particular attention has been paid in 2019 to the development and implementation of digital technology for drilling and maintenance management, as well as the introduction of portable solutions.

Three key words sum up the PSA’s expectations of the industry’s work on digitalisation.

  • HTO. The companies must assess vulnerability and risk from an integrated perspective which includes human, technological and organisational aspects.
  • Risk. Each company must take ownership of and manage the risk related to the implementation of new systems and technological solutions.  
  • Collaboration. Involving and training employees are crucial for promoting expertise and risk understanding.

Integrated approach to HTO

Digitalisation is not only about technology. The companies must assess vulnerability and risk from an integrated perspective, which includes HTO. Digital technology and autonomous systems must also be designed to reduce technical faults, to support the ability of people to take the right decisions, and to accord with the regulations and good practice.

Increased automation is a major area of commitment, and the PSA sees the industry is making itself ever more dependent on digital and automated systems. This will create new opportunities for enhancing efficiency and safety, but could also lead to changes in roles and responsibilities for both technical systems and people. It is important to be aware of this – and to take it into account.

Dependent on people

Autonomous systems can operate independently in full or in part. The degree of such independence can vary from solutions where personnel have overall control of most operations to ones which work entirely without human intervention.

In drilling and well services, for example, the use of digital well planning and automated drilling is on the increase. A case in point is the development and implementation of systems for automated drilling control (ADC), which give a driller more decision support than has normally been seen in traditional drilling. The goal is to improve operational safety and efficiency.

Despite greater automation, the industry will depend to a large extent on people to monitor systems and intervene if the technology breaks down.

The companies must therefore ensure that the systems and technology they develop have a human-centred design and take account of the human perspective and preconditions throughout the process.

Ownership and management

Whoever owns a risk is responsible for managing it. That also applies to digitalisation work. Each company must accept ownership and management of the risk associated with the implementation of new systems and technological solutions.

They must monitor and understand the risk, and ensure that uncertainties are dealt with. Development and implementation of digital solutions must contribute to improving the working environment and safety.

Risk management processes for developing and implementing new technology and digital solutions at the companies will continue to be followed up by the PSA. The companies have an independent responsibility for ensuring that processes related to qualifying and adopting such innovations are prudent and that associated uncertainty is evaluated and dealt with.

More changes

Introducing new technology and digital solutions will often lead to changes in work assignments and processes. The division of responsibility, apportioning jobs between humans and machines, organisational structures, forms of collaboration and business models may be affected. Such changes can also have consequences for the employee expertise required.

An example is provided by autonomous systems and portable technology, which could influence day-to-day work for operational personnel and cause changes to communication and collaboration between sea and shore.

That may help to simplify and improve decision support for the personnel involved, but could also lead to changes in roles and responsibilities and the introduction of new requirements for employee expertise.

Use of new technology and remote operation will also call for greater attention to be paid to ICT security. Once again, it is  important that the industry ensures the solutions adopted do not introduce risks and vulnerabilities.

Expertise and training

Digital expertise is important not only for developing, understanding and dealing with technology, but also for protecting the systems sufficiently against undesirable incidents.

Changes to work content and execution will mean a need and a requirement for both specialists and management to update their knowledge and expertise. This will apply, for example, to learning about the safe and correct use of new systems and technology in doing work.

The PSA expects the companies to ensure that employees have the necessary expertise tailored to changed assignments and new technology, that sufficient time is allocated for training, and that such learning is provided at the right time.


Involvement of employees – both end users and the safety delegate service – is crucial for promoting expertise and risk understanding.

The PSA sees that many new systems are developed and implemented in a short time frame. If the risk associated with these changes is not prudently management, the result could be increased uncertainty, a lack of trust in the technology and a reduced understanding of the position.

Experience acquired by the PSA shows that the underlying causes of undesirable incidents  may reflect inadequate understanding of the technology and/or operating the system inaccurately and without a grasp of human factors.

It must be possible to rely on the technology being secure and on possible new risks being handled within the regulatory framework. That makes it important for employers, employees and the government to collaborate, make a commitment and contribute in this area.


Digitalisation covers both technological and organisational aspects – robotisation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Big Data and closer integration of systems, as well as changes to work processes, new forms of collaboration and different commercial models.

The PSA has paid particular attention in 2019 to the development and implementation of digital technology for drilling and maintenance management, as well as the introduction of portable solutions. Its supervisory activities have been directed at such issues as:

  • conversion/robotisation of the drill floor
  • new contractual models between operators and drilling service companies
  • automated drilling operations
  • use of drones
  • maintenance management and digitalisation
  • implementation of portable technology
  • digitalisation initiatives at engineering companies.