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Serious injuries double in offshore petroleum industry

Tuesday, 11 June, 2019 - 17:15
Industry news
National News

There were eight serious injuries reported in 2018 in Australia’s offshore petroleum industry – an increase from four in 2017, according to National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

Serious injuries reported in 2018 included broken bones and torn or ruptured tendons, and these types of injuries have serious impact on the people involved and should be very concerning to facility operators, said Stuart Smith, CEO of NOPSEMA in its Annual offshore performance report.

He said that operators must investigate the causes of all injuries and implement all necessary improvements to prevent their reoccurrence.

“While NOPSEMA expects the day-to-day safety of the workforce to be at the forefront of all operations, a crucial aspect of offshore operations is recognising the importance of preventing the potential catastrophic consequences of a major accident event,” he said.

“Preventing major accident events (MAE) is essential to protecting the safety of people at facilities and the environment.”

The key focus when reviewing the causes of an event should be determining whether it was a precursor to a major accident event, and Smith said experience has shown that incidents resulting in personal or environmental impact often do not present risk of a major accident event.

Conversely, other incidents where there was no injury or environmental impact could have resulted in a MAE.

“While the eight serious injuries reported in 2018 are still a concern, on review, none of them suggest systemic failures that could lead to an MAE resulting in multiple fatalities,” said Smith, who added that an undue focus on these incidents may lead to complacency on weak signals to major accident events.

The report said key industry performance indicators show that the regulator and industry have largely been able to manage the escalation in commissioning and production activity without compromising workforce safety standards with no fatalities recorded for the sixth consecutive year.

In 2018, NOPSEMA continued to focus regulatory activities on four key strategic compliance improvement areas through three lenses: past (preventing old accidents), present (find one, fix many) and future (emerging trends).

The four key strategic compliance improvement areas were: preventing major accident events; preventing and managing a loss of well control; improving incident response and spill source control; and improving oil spill response arrangements.

“Each of these focus areas were explored by analysing past incidents and high potential events,” said Smith.

“We then applied these learnings to our assessments and inspections to prevent past incidents from reoccurring.

“Through [the] find-one-fix-many approach we put particular focus on sharing learnings from current incidents and examples of best practice to influence positive behavioural change within the industry.”

Smith said that sharing insights and exchanging knowledge are essential elements of continuous improvement.

As a result of such sharing, NOPSEMA saw positive improvement in cooperative risk management solutions in oil spill preparedness and response through industry and government participation.

NOPSEMA also drove improvement through leadership of a work program on the tolerance of dynamic positioning systems on human error and study into well integrity issues in Australia’s offshore industry.

Smith said the authority will continue to hold a range of workshops to facilitate cooperation and openness on safety, well integrity and environmental performance.