Strengthening relationships with Health and Safety Representatives
Article published in The Regulator | Issue 2: 2020
To ensure due recognition of the important role of offshore Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) in the safety of offshore workers, NOPSEMA developed initiatives to improve operator and NOPSEMA engagement with, and support of, HSRs.
A 2018 Senate Inquiry considered the role of HSRs in offshore safety and their interactions with NOPSEMA. As HSRs are vital in raising reported safety concerns with NOPSEMA, it was considered important that the role of HSRs and that of offshore workers in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace was widely communicated and well understood. Opportunities for improvement were recognised for strengthening channels of communication and the visibility of HSRs.
In addition to holding meetings with HSRs, including those employed by contractors, during every OHS inspection, NOPSEMA has updated standard operating procedures to ensure meetings are held with HSRs at the start of every Environment and Well Integrity inspection it conducts. The intent of the meeting is to describe the scope of the inspection and seek information from HSRs that may be relevant.
NOPSEMA inspectors attend accredited HSR training sessions to liaise directly with HSRs, answer any questions they may have, and listen to concerns. NOPSEMA is introducing HSR refresher training, after holding a pilot training day and forum in June 2019, attended by more than 70 HSRs. The initiative has support from industry, unions and government.
NOPSEMA contributed to a review of Safety Regulations undertaken by the federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, providing feedback regarding Commonwealth legislation pertaining to HSRs and suggesting modifications. New guidance notes have been published to address concerns raised during the Senate Inquiry, consolidating elements of the legislation pertaining to HSR powers and highlighting NOPSEMA resources available to HSRs to assist with performing their role.
Engagement between NOPSEMA inspectors and HSRs has increased. In 2019, 21 meetings with HSRs were held during Well Integrity and Environment inspections following changes to standard operating procedures, in addition to the meetings at each of the 135 OHS inspections for that year. NOPSEMA inspectors continue to attend formal HSR training. HSR Forums with refresher training will be held periodically, supported by industry, unions and government.
HSRs have responded positively to NOPSEMA inspector involvement at HSR training. Feedback from HSRs indicates that it is a valuable part of the training and helps them to better understand the relationship between NOPSEMA and HSRs. Similarly, responses to the HSR Forum were overwhelmingly positive, with HSRs reporting that the event provided a good opportunity to consult with industry peers and share their knowledge and experiences.
Health and Safety Representatives, including those employed by contractors or through labour hire arrangements, are now better prepared to raise health and safety concerns for their facility, and are better informed about the range of appropriate avenues for support to address these issues, including through NOPSEMA.