Third party certification of safety-critical equipment

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 2: 2017 

Many Australian and international standards require that the certification of safety-critical equipment, prior to use, is undertaken by a suitably competent person that is independent of the manufacturer or supplier. This independence provides the regulator, workforce and community with greater assurance and confidence that the equipment is fit-for-purpose. Also, duty holders may use third-party certification to demonstrate their compliance with commitments in their accepted safety case.

At a recent facility inspection, NOPSEMA inspectors found the operator was not adhering to their selected design and maintenance standards, which required independent third-party certification of their safety-critical equipment. Specifically, items in the operator’s well control system, including a blowout preventer (BOP), didn’t have third-party certification and their own assurance processes had not identified this failure.

A BOP certification should include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • statements of compliance for the BOP’s design and manufacture from the manufacturer

  • an independent review certificate, also known as a ‘type approval’, certifying that the design of the BOP meets the selected standards

  • an independent certificate of conformity, also known as a product certificate, referencing the BOP’s serial number and certifying that it has been manufactured according to the design

  • ongoing, independent certification and assurance documents, including a major re-certification every five years.

Operators have a duty to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that all plant and equipment at the facility is safe and without risk to the health and safety of the offshore workforce. Operators must ensure that the adequacy of the design, construction, installation, maintenance, and modification of their facilities is undertaken in accordance with the standards specified in their accepted safety cases. This includes the provision for independent, third-party certification those standards incorporate.