We are talking about the Safety Forum, quite simply the most significant tripartite arena in Norway’s most important industry. It was created to overcome disagreement.
Two decades ago, the climate of collaboration between the parties – companies, unions and government – in the Norwegian oil and gas sector was difficult.
Views diverged in many directions. Employers and employees had very different perceptions about what working offshore was like – and how safe it was.
The government occupied the middle ground and found that its understanding was not helped when the pictures were painted in such different colours and brushstrokes.
What risk did oil workers face? What status did safety and the working environment occupy in budget processes? How was safety to be understood and what efforts were needed to improve it?
The temperature between the parties was at boiling point, and no suitable arena existed for cooling down and discussing disagreements in an objective manner.
But that was before wise heads put on their thinking caps, talked together, and turned thought into action. The result was the establishment of the Safety Forum in 2000.
The forum is chaired by the director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), who has been Anne Myhrvold since 2013. Her ownership of this meeting place is strong and committed.
“An established arena with regular sessions is important,” she says. “Around the table in the Safety Forum, we pick up the reverberations of the most important developments in the industry.
“The key safety issues are raised there. Because all the main players are represented, the views expressed and conclusions reached at the meetings are also widely disseminated.
“Good information flow is crucial for encouraging an active commitment in and between the parties. Well-functioning tripartite collaboration is also fundamental to our Norwegian model.”
Myhrvold is committed to tolerance, and says that a climate for free, open discussion must prevail when the parties meet in the Safety Forum.
“That’s something all the members want, and feedback indicates that the arena is experienced precisely in this way – a place where honest opinions can be expressed. That’s positive.”
In other words, the debates that began at the start of the new millennium are still very much alive but are now being pursued in a good and secure home.
The RNNP tool, which measures trends in risk level in the Norwegian petroleum activity, is another trueborn child of the safety disagreements which prevailed in the late 1990s.
At the time, people questioned whether it was actually possible to measure risk and its development. But the answer proved to be yes.
Bright sparks put their heads together and came up with a method for annual measurements which everyone could accept. And the RNNP retains its unchallenged status.
Both the tool itself and the results it provides are supported by all the parties, and work continues on further development of this methodology.
The RNNP is owned by the Safety Forum, and thereby has the support of people with different roles and viewpoints in the Norwegian oil and gas industry.
“It’s key joint property,” Myhrvold says. “A shared picture of the risk level creates common ground for discussing which measures help to improve safety and the working environment.”
The Safety Forum’s sharing spirit also finds expression in its annual conference. Open to all, this is probably the only meeting of its kind in Norway staged jointly by employers, unions and government.
Its goal is to debate topics which can help to reduce major accident risk and improve the working environment in the petroleum sector.
With many divergent views on display, the temperature on the stage and among the audience at the Safety Forum conference can get heated.
Participants who are not familiar with its format often raise their eyebrows and wonder whether people are really allowed to express themselves so directly and bluntly in public.
But that is precisely the point. Just as it is in the Safety Forum’s sessions.
The 2020 Safety Forum conference was originally due to take place this spring, but that proved impossible because of the coronavirus outbreak.
It has now been moved to 3 September and can therefore be staged with the audience present but safeguarded against infection. The venue is Gaffel & Karaffel in central Stavanger.
The programme is worthy of a youngster reaching mature years. A number of challenging and stimulating speakers will ascend the podium to present interesting views and topics.
They have the courage of their convictions. Exactly like the Safety Forum.