The United Kingdom’s offshore division of the Health and Safety Executive is renewing its inspection program of ageing offshore oil production facilities, citing them as a “significant risk”.
After 40 years of production in the North Sea, HSE estimates that more than half of its fixed platforms have exceeded their original design life.
Specifically, this year’s activities will focus on safety information flows to the upper management “to assess the range of health and safety information (including process key performance indicators) which the most senior leadership get, how they use it and how they know it is valid and reliable.”
Safety culture will be a high priority too, with the HSE viewing it as the “heart of effective management of all risks offshore”. It wants workers to become involved in managing their own health and safety.
The new campaign, Key Programme 4, is designed to fill gaps the HSE believed existed after its 2007 Key Programme 3 integrity initiative and the 2009 review of the industry’s response to it.
HSE said there had been progress but that it “was by no means complete and would continue to require sustained effort and investment.”
“We are very clear that if installations are going to be used beyond their original anticipated design life then operators need to look to the future and anticipate inevitable consequences. This is a priority for us,” said Steve Walker, HSE's Head of Offshore Safety.
Faced with the threat of a European Commission takeover of safety regulation in the UK, flagged a fortnight ago by EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, the sector’s lobbyist, Oil & Gas UK, has welcomed the incumbent regulator’s extra attention.
“It is important that we review and reflect on our operations on a regular basis to make sure that our offshore installations continue to be fit for purpose, safe and efficient,” said Oil & Gas UK chief, Malcolm Webb.
The EU’s Oettinger had suggested nations put a moratorium on all new drilling permits.