2019 has been an eventful year where further major hydrocarbon releases and events have occurred, proving we cannot afford to take our attention off other major accident hazards.
That said, it has been pleasing to see the industry commitment to improving its safety performance.
At the OGUK Health Safety and Environment conference in November, we used the opportunity to remind industry of its performance in the areas of asset and operational integrity, emphasising the importance of leadership in achieving success and keeping people in the offshore industry safe.
Prior to the conference and alongside OGUK, IADC, Step Change in Safety and OPRED, HSE’s Chair Martin Temple endorsed the new Principles of Process Safety Leadership for the Offshore UKCS Oil and Gas Industry. The principles require those at the top of organisations to be fully involved in managing major accident risks by active engagement with the workforce to set a positive culture, to encourage constant vigilance and regular auditing to look out for signs of risk, and to spell out the importance of being open to sharing process safety performance information and learning from others.
As the health and safety regulator, and a signatory to the principles, we at HSE are committed to both sharing our own findings from incident investigations and encouraging others to do so. We’ll also give open feedback on industry performance on an ongoing basis. The collaborative approach between OGUK and Step Change in Safety over the last year is very welcome, leading to the development of a Hydrocarbon Release Prevention Plan.
We have a continued focus on asset integrity, building on the solid foundations from our previous key programmes in this area, which we believe is vital for safe, efficient production.
We have actively contributed to the industry Asset Integrity Task Group and will continue to do so to ensure that hardware sources of hydrocarbon releases are tackled through collaboration both within the industry and with the regulator. Similarly, we are leading research work to ensure the structural integrity of installations is maintained.
Robust asset integrity is not enough on its own to prevent major accidents and operational integrity also needs to be well managed but regrettably, our interventions continue to identify weak controls for the operation of process plant within its safe limits, management of change, and the safe isolation and reinstatement of plant, and as a result there have been major hydrocarbon releases. HSE will continue to raise the profile of these topics with industry and strengthen the available guidance on reinstatement of plant.
Looking ahead to 2020 we’ll be continuing to challenge industry on its performance in many areas. These include asset and operational integrity, dutyholders’ progress with implementing the new leadership principles and delivery of the Hydrocarbon Release Prevention Plan. We will continue to be focussed on major accident prevention and recognise everyone has a role to play in this including the workforce on the installation, industry leaders, industry associations and ourselves as the regulator.
Howard Harte & Matthew Blackburn are operations managers at the Health and Safety Executive’s Energy Division.