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Inspections, investigations and enforcement

NOPSEMA fulfils its legislated functions by undertaking inspection, investigation and enforcement.

The Regulatory services charter policy sets out the standards that NOPSEMA will apply in our interactions with stakeholders including the regulated entities under the OPGGS Act, including titleholders and facility operator and the offshore petroleum workforce. 

An outcome of inspections and investigations are the enforcement actions of directions and notices found on the Published directions and notices page.

OHS inspectors may conduct inspections in relation to offshore petroleum facilities. Inspections are used to monitor compliance with the legislation and ongoing implementation and compliance with safety cases, diving safety management systems and diving project plans.

Planned inspections focus on facilities (including pipelines). The subject of planned inspections will include both control and management of Major Accident Events and Occupational Health and Safety. Normally attended production facilities will be inspected at least twice per year, where practicable.

During the inspections, OHS inspectors will communicate with all levels of the workforce including health and safety representatives (HSRs). Inspections may take several days and incorporate overnight stays on facilities.

The controls and SMS elements inspected will be reviewed as far as practicable in line with a range of factors:

  • are the controls implemented?

  • are the controls functional?

  • are the controls maintained?

  • are the controls audited?

  • is the workforce competent?

Each planned inspection will focus on:

  • verification of operator commitments regarding the recommendations from previous inspections and incident investigations

  • controls and/or management system elements selected in relation to at least one of the following: For diving operations, controls and/or management system elements from the DSMS/DPP

    1. a major accident event (MAE)

    2. an occupational health and safety hazard.

For more information see the OHS planned inspection policy.

Facilities and Activities

NOPSEMA's functions include promotion of occupational health and safety of persons engaged in offshore petroleum operations. These operations are: diving operations or operations at a facility. Certain vessels or structures are defined as facilities (refer to Facility definition includes an associated offshore place guideline). Licensed pipelines are also facilities. The categories of activities that cause relevant vessels or structures to be defined as facilities are:

  1. recovery, processing, storage and offloading of petroleum, or any combination of these activities;

  2. provision of accommodation for persons at another facility, whether or not connected by walkway;

  3. drilling or servicing a petroleum well, or doing any work associated with drilling or servicing;

  4. laying of pipes for petroleum, including any manufacturing of such pipes, or doing work on existing pipes;

  5. erection, dismantling or decommissioning of a vessel or structure of any of the above types; and

  6. any other activity related to offshore petroleum that is prescribed.

The facility definition includes a facility being constructed or installed and an associated offshore place (that being an offshore place near the facility where activities relating to the facility occur). The facility definition also includes a pipeline subject to a pipeline licence, together with any associated wells, associated plant and equipment, and any pipe or system of pipes through which petroleum is conveyed from that well to that pipeline.

For detailed facility definitions see the legislation and regulation page.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is Australia's independent regulator of safety, well integrity and environmental management for all offshore petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters.

NOPSEMA's Environment Division is responsible for ensuring that all offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters are undertaken in accordance with the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations).

The Environment Regulations seek to ensure that every offshore petroleum activity in Commonwealth waters is carried out in a manner:

  • consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development

  • such that the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be acceptable and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

Compliance

Inspections

NOPSEMA conducts inspections to monitor the compliance of an offshore petroleum company with the Environment Regulations and the ongoing implementation and compliance with the accepted environment plan.

Inspections are carried out using a risk-based methodology that considers the relevant risk factors, performance and compliance history, current industry incident trends, and any relevant findings from previous inspections.

When an inspection is completed, NOPSEMA inspectors will provide the offshore petroleum company a detailed report of the inspector's findings, conclusions and any recommendations for improvement. NOPSEMA inspectors may also request the company to provide the regulator with proposed actions to address issues highlighted in the inspection report.

Investigations

When NOPSEMA detects a potential breach of the Environment Regulations or a serious incident is reported, the authority will commence an investigation. Investigations are undertaken to determine what went wrong, share lessons learned and, where necessary, hold the responsible parties to account through enforcement action.

Enforcement action

When NOPSEMA determines a breach of the Environment Regulations has occurred, the authority may take enforcement action to rectify the breach, avoid a recurrence and act as a deterrent. Enforcement action can include issuing improvement and prohibition notices, giving directions, requesting a revision or withdrawing acceptance of an environment plan and prosecution.

Promote and advise best practice

With the overall objective of improving industry performance, NOPSEMA has a function to promote and advise on environmental management matters. NOPSEMA proactively seeks to engage with stakeholders through liaison meetings, hosting workshops and information sessions, presentations and participating in industry conferences and forums.

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Page last updated: July 5, 2021 3:59pm