Generally speaking, the RNNP findings for 2021 reveal good results from the industry’s work on major accident risk. The exception is hydrocarbon leaks at the petroleum-related plants on land.
A total of 18 such incidents occurred in 2021 – the second highest number since measurements began in 2006.
“Last year’s RNNP figures showed a sharp rise in the number of unignited hydrocarbon leaks on land,” says Anne Myhrvold, director general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.
“We now see that the onshore plants have failed to reverse this trend, which is still moving the wrong way.”
She describes this as concerning, and says that the companies which own and operate these facilities must now get a grip and ensure a reduction – while emphasising that big variations exist from plant to plant.
Overall indicator for major accidents
Developments on land contrast with the position offshore, where the number of hydrocarbon leaks remained at a stable and relatively low level in 2021. Well control incidents increased, but only one of these was categorised as serious. Construction injuries went down.
The overall indicator for major accidents on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) fell from 2020 to 2021, and the RNNP findings show that the trend is also positive in the longer term.
“These results indicate that the industry’s work on risk management is having an effect, and reinforces the picture we have that it has become better at managing underlying factors which influence risk,” observes Myhrvold.
“That said, these are historical data. They give us no guarantee that future incidents will be avoided and must not be used as any form of excuse for inaction.”
While urging the industry to make an extra effort, she acknowledges that the RNNP survey shows the level of safety in the Norwegian petroleum industry is generally high.
“At the same time, we note that progress in important areas is flattening out – where hydrocarbon leaks offshore are concerned, for example. We also see an increase in well control incidents, something the industry must pay extra attention to.
“I expect every company and the industry as a whole to work purposefully for a further reduction in the level of risk.”
Conducted every other year, the RNNP questionnaire survey covers all employees on the NCS and at the onshore plants. It maps workforce perceptions of the physical and psychosocial working environment, the HSE climate, and their own health, illnesses and injuries.
Results from the 2021 poll show that very many respondents say conditions are good. At the same time, a number of comments are considered to be more negative than in 2019.
Offshore, a number of factors have moved in the wrong direction since the previous survey with regard to the physical/chemical and psychosocial working environment, self-reporting of health problems and the HSE climate. The trend is the same onshore, although not so marked.
“It’s important that the companies are familiar with, understand and utilise the information provided by this survey,” says Myhrvold. “How employees experience working environment factors and the HSE climate are important indicators in systematic safety work.
“These must form part of the overall picture when the companies assess improvement measures, along with factors such as major accident indicators, personal injury risk, maintenance figures and barrier indicators.”
Serious personal injuries
No accidents resulting in fatalities occurred in the Norwegian petroleum industry during 2021.
Personal injury statistics on the NCS moved in the right direction, with serious injuries declining from 28 in 2020 to 27. This reduction coincided with an increase in hours worked. Total injuries per million working hours thereby fell from 0.68 to 0.63 in 2021.
Serious personal injuries at the land plants rose slightly, from nine in 2020 to 12, with the personal injury frequency up from 1.1 per million working hours to 1.2 in 2021.
The main trend for barrier indicators on the NCS is positive in most cases, with the majority of the indicators on the right side of the industry’s self-defined requirements. This level has been fairly stable in recent years.
Where barrier elements related to isolation and handling energy in connection with incidents are concerned, the records show that several of these are above the industry’s self-defined requirements. That also indicates a negative trend.
The barrier indicators still show that big differences in level persist between the facilities.
Results for these indicators at the onshore plants have shown a positive trend in recent years, but big variations between these facilities can also seen. Some score more poorly than the industry’s targets.
The overall backlog for preventive maintenance on the permanent facilities amounts to a relatively small number of hours, with figures for 2021 showing a drop from the year before. They also reveal that the HSE-critical share of the backlog is declining. However, several facilities still failed to meet their own deadlines for such work.
Where corrective maintenance is concerned, figures for the permanent facilities show a substantial number of hours not being carried out in 2021. Considerable variations exist between the facilities, but those with the largest number of corrective maintenance hours in 2019 were mainly at a lower level in 2021.