What changes require an operator to revise their safety case?

Article published in the Regulator Issue 4:2015

Recently, some operators have used their  internal management of change (MoC) processes to change standards and procedures of which they have committed to in the safety case for the facility. Often, such changes can significantly modify the way an operator manages health and safety risks and, in some cases, weaken the controls put  in place to reduce those risks to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).

NOPSEMA recognises that changes in standards may occur and that facility operators are required to have effective means in place to ensure continual and systematic improvement of their safety management systems [reg. 2.6(c)]. However, operators should recognise that such changes may be a significant modification of the arrangements that formed the basis for NOPSEMA’s acceptance of the facility’s safety case, thereby triggering the requirement for the safety case to be revised and resubmitted to NOPSEMA [reg. 2.30] regardless of the application of the operator’s MoC process. 

A significant component of NOPSEMA’s planned inspections is devoted to verifying an operator’s compliance with the facility’s safety case. In several recent inspections, NOPSEMA inspectors have identified inadequate implementation of operators' MoC processes
in making changes to the arrangements they have described in their safety case. In some cases, operators have not conducted the MoC process prior to changing their arrangements. NOPSEMA considers there is some potential for misuse of the MoC process to arrive at a pre-determined outcome without either appropriately assessing the risk or ensuring the change reduces risk to ALARP.

Similarly, it has come to NOPSEMA’s attention that some operators are effectively de-rating certain items of equipment from being controls for a Major Accident Event despite the safety case for the facility specifying the equipment is ‘safety-critical’. Such a change may constitute a change in the technical knowledge relied upon to formulate the safety case and therefore may require a revised safety case submission to NOPSEMA under regulation 2.30(1)(a).

Operators should note that making changes in accordance with MoC processes does not provide an exemption from their obligation to:

• revise and resubmit the safety case in accordance with the triggers for safety case revision in Regulation 2.30 of the OPGGS (Safety) Regulations 2009

• ensure that risks are reduced ALARP in accordance with the duties of the operator under Schedule 3 to the OPGGS Act 2006.

Further guidance on when MoC should trigger a safety case revision is available in sections 3.6 and 3.7 of NOPSEMA’s Safety Case Lifecycle Management guidance note (N-04300-GN0087).