Improving awareness key to preventing major offshore accidents

Gillian Simpson is programme delivery manager at Step Change in Safety
Gillian Simpson is programme delivery manager at Step Change in Safety

The subject of offshore hydrocarbon releases (HCRs) continues to be a major source of discussion in the UK oil and gas industry.

Every HCR is a safety threat and, while major accidents are rare events, they always have the potential for large-scale loss of life, catastrophic damage to assets or the environment.

Earlier this year, the HSE challenged oil and gas operators over continued hydrocarbon releases and warned them to do more to tackle the problem. The regulator also asked them to improve sharing and learning from incidents.

Step Change in Safety – the member-led, not-for-profit organisation which brings together the workforce, operators and contractors, trade unions and regulators to share, collaborate and adopt best safety practice – has been playing a very important role in supporting this call for action and increasing the industry’s awareness of major accident hazard management.

Everyone has a part to play in managing major accident hazards, from the drill floor to the board room. With this in mind, Step Change in Safety’s major accident hazard understanding workgroup – which is made up of representatives from operators, contractors, safety reps and the HSE – has been working on a programme to develop a more informed workforce and give everyone in the industry a clear line of sight between their job role and prevention of a major accident.

This programme initially identified knowledge gaps at all levels across the industry and then set out to address this lack of awareness by creating a range of resources, including senior management workshops, an e-learning tool and a series of videos and learning packs, for distribution both onshore and offshore.

It’s hoped that the videos, which are designed to equip the offshore workforce with a greater awareness of major accident hazards and how they interact with the critical safety control measures, or “barriers”, will also enable a greater level of discussion.

The most recent film produced by Step Change in Safety called Own Your Barrier, features real-life industry personnel; including a control room operator, a scaffolder and the managing director of a major oil and gas production company; explaining the importance of the barriers they own and their role in preventing and mitigating against major accidents.

Our organisation is also working together with its members to develop a High Value Learning approach which promotes and supports the early sharing of identified lessons from a major accident or near-miss. Examples of good practice also have great learning potential.

Step Change in Safety is looking forward to another year of productive collaboration as the members of its workgroups, who volunteer their time and expertise, continue their efforts towards making the UKCS the safest place to work in the worldwide oil and gas industry.

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