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Message from the Chief Executive

The Regulator Issue 3 October 2021

In this issue of the Regulator, we highlight NOPSEMA’s strategic compliance focus on the prevention of major accident events (MAEs) and the importance of ensuring duty holders are taking all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of the workforce and minimise the environmental impact of their offshore operations.

MAEs are rare but leave a devastating legacy, with their anniversaries serving as a harsh reminder of the significant risks associated with working in a high-hazard industry, such as offshore oil and gas.

Preventing MAEs requires safety to be understood and accepted as the number one priority at every stage of a project, and at every level of an organisation. Accident prevention should be central to the way facilities are designed and operated. The facility safety case should be easily accessible and widely understood so that everyone is aware of actions required to support safe operations, particularly in the event of an emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded everyone of the importance of vigilance, the need to expect the unexpected, and to remain alert to changes in risk and the emergence of new risks. NOPSEMA recognises that getting the job done right during this unprecedented period of change is challenging, particularly when combined with cost pressures.

I encourage duty holders to consider whether the systems they have in place are sufficiently robust, whether the expertise of the workforce is being maintained to identify and reduce new and emerging risks, and whether the decisions being made today are reducing the risk of a MAE to as low as reasonably practicable. We know that top-level leadership commitment to safety makes a substantial difference in building the positive process safety cultures necessary to prevent MAEs. This difference is because a facility’s safety culture is frequently identified as a contributing factor to MAEs.

Duty holders may be challenged in balancing the management of immediate safety issues with long-term issues around environment. In our view, focusing on preventing MAEs may reduce this tension because many of the measures required to ensure the safety of the workforce, such as blowout prevention, are equally effective at protecting the environment. This view does not, of course, negate the need to take seriously those aspects of operational planning that exist primarily to protect the environment.

Communication and collaboration within the industry is also essential. Experience tells us that the lessons learned from incidents are retained by those who were involved or close to the incident at the time. When those people move on, they take the experience with them. Sharing knowledge and experience widely among industry in collaborative forums can help develop systems and strategies that reflect best practice.

Getting the job done right also applies to the regulator. Crucial to achieving this, and maintaining community confidence in the regulatory regime, is ensuring rigour in our approach. NOPSEMA’s approach to its assessments, compliance monitoring and enforcement activities seeks to be characterised by independence, professionalism, and respect for due process, reinforced by a commitment to promotion and advisory activities.

I believe the regulatory regime administered by NOPSEMA leads to strong safety and environmental outcomes evidenced by a good track record. The regime is premised on continuous improvement, so it would be unwise to think that this same premise doesn’t apply to the regime itself. This is why NOPSEMA continues to advocate for and support proposed amendments that seek to improve safety and environmental outcomes, such as the introduction of a design notification scheme.

While the offshore environment is inherently high risk, the offshore workforce deserves the safest working conditions that can reasonably be obtained. In an industry that has seen the tragic consequences of MAEs, NOPSEMA is committed to ensuring duty holders are complying with their legislative responsibilities to protect the workforce and environment.

Page last updated: October 13, 2021 2:04pm