NOPSEMA introduces integrated inspections

Article published in The Regulator | Issue 3: 2020 

NOPSEMA has continued to monitor compliance throughout 2020 but with various restrictions and new risks resulting from COVID-19, NOPSEMA’s inspection program has had to adapt. While NOPSEMA’s inspections have continued throughout the pandemic, border controls and other government restrictions have at times this year prevented NOPSEMA from physically attending offshore facilities and company premises. To ensure continued contact and oversight of offshore petroleum activities, NOPSEMA has employed remote inspection approaches. NOPSEMA has also incorporated additional compliance monitoring tools, such as benchmarking against recognised better practice approaches for addressing specific COVID-19 health risks to ensure ongoing protection of workers and the environment during the pandemic.  

Now that restrictions are starting to ease for parts of Australia, NOPSEMA resumed physical offshore inspections in August 2020 in line with appropriate protocols to manage health risks associated with COVID-19.

In recommencing offshore inspections, NOPSEMA has evolved inspection programming to consider a broader set of risk factors and an asset or activity-based approach that incorporates the expertise of specialists in occupational health and safety, environmental management, well integrity and oil spill risk. This holistic approach to compliance monitoring allows NOSPEMA to better target physical inspections at offshore facilities and regulated business premises.

In taking an integrated approach to inspections to involve diverse skill sets, NOSPEMA is able to focus on the most pressing risks for each asset and is well-positioned to deliver timely technical advice to address a broad range of matters that may arise during an inspection. NOSPEMA will continue to ramp up physical offshore inspections but with the added logistical complexity and the imperative to ensure that NOPSEMA inspectors are not themselves a vector for infection, NOPSEMA has even more reason to ensure it’s getting the most out of each and every inspection.

Integrated compliance program development, planning and conduct of inspections are expected to provide NOPSEMA inspectors with a fuller picture of compliance issues to further enhance regulatory outcomes. In the past, NOSPEMA has largely conducted inspections specific to occupational health and safety, or environmental management, or well integrity. Developing a more integrated and dynamic approach has been an area that NOPSEMA has been working on since conducting an internal review of its inspection processes in 2019. COVID-19 has accelerated progress and development.

Once fully implemented, this approach will deliver the most effective and efficient use of resources, potentially reducing the need for multiple inspections, providing better coordination of travel to offshore facilities.  

The impacts of COVID-19 on the community and industry continue to be assessed and managed by industry, with NOPSEMA ensuring the processes of regulatory assessment and oversight are occurring, in accordance with legislative requirements and varying local conditions, health risks and circumstances across the country.