Cooperation between employers, employees and the authorities is an important element in efforts to improve safety when digital technology and automated systems are introduced into the industry.

The International Regulators’ Forum (IRF), in which offshore safety authorities from 11 countries collaborate to implement efficient supervision of safety and the working environment in the petroleum activities, has now defined digital technology and automated solutions as one of its three priority topics – so-called common problem statements in the petroleum industry.

The PSA has been an influential member of IRF since the forum was established in the 1990s.

The objective of defining common problem statements is to support the industry jointly address, follow up and develop solutions related to the identified risk areas/topics.

Human, technology, organisation (HTO)

“The problem statement on digital technology and automated solutions builds on experiences that have shown that the industry in many situations fails to pay sufficient attention to the human elements when developing and adopting new technology”, say Linn Iren Vestly Bergh and Kristian Solheim Teigen.

Bergh and Teigen have worked with digitalisation and its potential risiks for a number of years. They have been key players in developing further knowledge on the topic as well as following up the industry through supervisory activities.

Digital technology and automated systems are an appropriate topic for IRF to prioritise, because, as Bergh points out, although regulation and the organisations may vary between countries, the safety risks and the potential challenges are the same across national borders.

“Increased automation leads to  and complex systems. When it comes to technical systems, we often see a transition from systems that logically stand alone, to multifaceted and complex systems. Equipment designed for high reliability is connected to equipment that may be more vulnerable to operational disruptions”, says Teigen.

Connected and integrated

“The push for increased digitalisation and automation often produces systems that are increasingly interconnected and complex. Operational systems that traditionally has operated as logical segregated and standalone units, are now connected, and integrated into a larger digital infrastructure. Through the IT/OT convergence, systems that were designed for high operational reliability are being connected and exposed to systems that increases the vulnerability of the system as a whole, says Teigen” 

“We also see that new technology is an important precondition for successfully introducing new collaborative models and types of contracts.  Decisions and the execution of tasks move from the facility to automated systems, the digital cloud and to specialist onshore centres. Despite increased atomisation the industry will still largely depend on having personnel monitoring systems and being able to intervene if needed. If an unforeseen situation arises, personnel must still be able to intervene and take control over complex local situations”, says Bergh.


IRF has three priority problem statements where the authorities highlight challenges that the industry must address:


Our follow-up and cooperation through IRF will be based on the industry's own management and follow-up of digital technology and autonomous systems.

Through the cooperation between the authorities, IOGP (International Association of Oil & Gas Producers) and IADC (International Association of Drilling Contractors), our aim is to contribute to an industry that place safety and the working environment high on the agenda and promote efforts to find appropriate solutions when digital technology is developed and adopted by the companies.