Our regulatory activities

NOPSEMA fulfils its legislated functions by undertaking assessment, inspection, investigation, enforcement, promotion and advisory activities.

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Pathways to improvement 

Offshore petroleum exploration and production are inherently high-risk activities that must be appropriately managed to protect the health and safety of people while reducing environmental risks and impacts. Understanding the potential catastrophic consequences of a major incident, NOPSEMA has identified four focus areas to guide its regulatory, promotion and advice activities:

  • preventing major accident events (loss of life, loss of containment)

  • preventing and managing loss of well control

  • improving incident response and spill source control

  • improving oil spill preparedness arrangements.

NOPSEMA has selected these focus areas in accordance with its Compliance strategy to facilitate improvements in industry performance across health, safety, well integrity and environmental management. NOPSEMA will explore the focus areas through three lenses: past (preventing old accidents), present (find one, fix many) and future (emerging trends).


Image Pathways to improvement


For any offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas storage activity to commence, an oil and gas company must first submit relevant risk management plans to NOPSEMA for assessment and acceptance. Submitted plans can include safety cases, well operations management plans, offshore project proposals and environment plans.

NOPSEMA’s dedicated assessment teams, which comprise highly qualified and experienced industry experts, assess each plan against strict criteria as set out in the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) and associated regulations (see the Legislation & Regulations page for more information).

To be accepted, a plan must clearly demonstrate how a company will undertake a proposed activity to protect the health and safety of offshore workers and the integrity of the well(s) to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) whilst reducing environmental impacts to levels that are ALARP and acceptable.

What level of protection does ALARP provide?

A level that is as low as reasonably practicable or ALARP means that the duty holder has to demonstrate to NOPSEMA, through reasoned and supported arguments, that there are no other practical measures that could reasonably be taken to reduce risks further. For more information see GN0166 - ALARP - Rev 6 - June 2015 (PDF 765KB)


NOPSEMA conducts inspections to monitor an oil and gas company’s implementation and compliance with the accepted risk management plan and compliance with the broader legislative framework. Inspections are carried out using a risk-based methodology that considers relevant risk factors, performance and compliance history, current industry incident trends, and any relevant findings from previous inspections. Upon completion of an inspection, NOPSEMA inspectors will issue the company a detailed report of the inspections findings, conclusions and any recommendations for improvement. If necessary, NOPSEMA inspectors may also request a company to provide NOPSEMA with their proposed actions to address issues highlighted in the inspection report.


When NOPSEMA detects a potential breach of the legislation, it may do a number of things including hold a meeting with the responsible party, issue a warning letter or undertake a targeted inspection. NOPSEMA will commence an investigation if it determines the risk created by a potential breach is high and there is sufficient information to proceed. NOPSEMA’s investigation will determine what went wrong, share lessons learned and, where necessary, hold the responsible parties to account through enforcement action.


When NOPSEMA determines a breach of the legislation has occurred, the authority may choose to take enforcement action. Action will be taken to rectify the breach, avoid a recurrence, and to act as a deterrent. Enforcement action can include issuing an improvement or prohibition notice; giving a direction; requesting a revision or withdrawing acceptance of a safety case, well operations management plan or environment plan; and prosecution.

Advice and promotion

With the overall objective of improving industry performance, NOPSEMA has a function to promote and advise on health and safety, well integrity and environmental management matters. NOPSEMA seeks to engage with its stakeholders including international regulatory counterparts through a variety of mechanisms, such as information sessions, presentations and participating in industry and regulatory conferences and forums. NOPSEMA also publishes on its website a suite of industry performance data, policy and guidance material, latest news, reports and a quarterly newsletter. See our Information sharing policy for more information.