NOPSEMA concerned about misuse of Management of Change

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 4: 2017

Recently, NOPSEMA has noticed an increase in dutyholders using Management of change (MoC) to facilitate organisational change. This includes changes in safety and environmental management systems and changes in safety- and environmental-critical equipment which is used to reduce risks to health and safety, well integrity and manage impacts and risks to the environment.

NOPSEMA notes some positive aspects to this growing application in areas such as management systems and organisational change (in addition to the traditional application of MoC to temporary changes to technical or hardware controls). However, we are concerned about the emerging trend of misusing MoC to facilitate permanent deviations from commitments made in permissioning documents (such as safety cases, well operations management plans and environment plans).

The following are examples of situations where MoC has been used to justify continued operations:

  • A safety-critical valve, described as a control measure within the facility’s safety case, no longer met its performance standard, either through degradation or damage, and the facility operator did not intend to repair or replace it.

  • A titleholder changed its arrangements for oil spill response, meaning that its preparedness arrangements (detailed in the environment plan) are no longer in place or are of a lesser standard.

  • A titleholder conducted a longer seismic survey than described in their accepted environment plan, without considering the impact on marine turtles. The survey extended into a biologically important area during the peak nesting period for several marine turtle species.

NOPSEMA recognises that duty holders may use MoC to facilitate a change in the way they manage risk. This is appropriate when the change is temporary and short-term, and when equivalent or better controls and/or alternative ways of working (e.g. restrictions on certain activities) are put in place in the interim. However, MoC is not a substitute for formal revision and acceptance of a permissioning document, particularly where it is being used to facilitate long-term or permanent change.

NOPSEMA has also seen cases of duty holders using MoC to justify a reverse-ALARP situation. That is, where an existing control measure, which was once considered reasonably practicable, is removed or no longer fully functional and the duty holder does not intend to repair or replace it. This decision is quite often made due to rising costs, with MoC being used to justify the resulting higher level of risk. Section 3 of NOPSEMA’s ALARP guidance note (www.nopsema.gov.au/assets/Guidance-notes/A138249.pdf) outlines the principles that underpin ALARP and discusses the reverse-ALARP concept.

When using MoC, duty holders need to ensure that any proposed change reduces risks to ALARP and environmental impacts to an acceptable level. Duty holders should also consider if the change will impact on any other regulatory requirements. For example, a proposed change could alter the basis on which a permissioning document was accepted. This triggers the duty holder’s obligation to submit a revised permissioning document to NOPSEMA for assessment and acceptance. For more information on changes that are likely to require a revised environment plan, see NOPSEMA’s guideline on When to submit a proposed revision of an environment plan (www.nopsema.gov.au/assets/Guidelines/ A515816.pdf).