A lot changed for Norway in the winter of 1969. Finding Ekofisk, one of the world’s largest offshore oil fields, laid the basis for a new petroleum nation.
This discovery has contributed huge revenues to the country for half a century – but was also the setting for major accidents. The biggest of these occurred on 27 March 1980.
That was when the Alexander L Kielland flotel overturned on the Edda field near Ekofisk – a disaster which claimed 123 lives, changed the industry and made its mark on safety work ever after.
Major accidents have occurred in the Norwegian oil sector both before and after Kielland, starting with a helicopter crash on Ekofisk which killed four people.
The latest occurred in 2016, when a helicopter working for Statoil (now Equinor) came down off Turøy near Bergen at the cost of 13 lives.
Such incidents impose a heavy burden, especially on the individuals and families directly affected. The industry also feels the pain when colleagues, friends and employees die at work.
Many near-misses have also occurred during these 50 years. Such events can be very serious and close to disastrous, and leave people traumatised and deeply stressed.
The question then is how to avoid new major accidents. This subject will be raised and made a topic of discussion by the PSA in its main issue – and it will be demanding a response.
PSA director general Anne Myhrvold wants to see Norway’s ambition of continuous improvement in HSE converted into specific plans.
“Our choice of main issue for 2020 is intended to challenge the companies,” she emphasises. “We want to know what they’re going to do – and how.
“I sincerely hope that we never experience another major accident in our industry. To avoid that, we must develop – at all times.
“We must learn, analyse, implement and make safety the highest priority. Responsibility rests with the companies, which must show that they accept it – every day.”
Myhrvold says the PSA is posing three questions in connection with its 2020 main issue. These are primarily directed at managers and decision-makers.
- How can we continue to learn the lessons – and apply what we’ve learnt?
- What changes and new measures are being implemented by your company and your organisation to reduce the threat to life?
- How should we work to prevent a new major accident?
“The answers take centre stage here,” Myhrvold stresses. “How are the companies discharging their responsibility to operate safely, and how are we reducing risk to the lowest possible level?
“How are we doing this in practice? How do we ensure that companies, unions and government are pulling in the same direction?
“The PSA will initiate the debate and seek solutions – in every context. This industry has a common history, and we also shape the future in common.”
Never another major accident
Norway became an oil nation in the winter of 1969 with the discovery of Ekofisk. The following five decades have brought the country great success – and major accidents. It will be 40 years since the biggest of these in 2020.
Over half a century, the Norwegian oil industry has learnt a lot about risk. And it knows that good safety depends on its ability to reduce hazards.
The country’s ambition for continued improvement in HSE both must and will characterise the future for its oil sector. That is a collective responsibility for companies, unions and government.
This article has been taken from our Dialogue journal, which aims to encourage debate on some of the most relevant issues and challenges faced by the industry in the safety area.