The Regulator I Issue 3 I October 2021
NOPSEMA sees the participation of the workforce as a central element of health and safety management on any facility.
While the facility operator is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the workforce, and the preparation of the facility’s safety case, the workforce must be informed of the risks they may be exposed to, and the control measures put in place to protect them. The workforce must be consulted and invited to participate in the development of the facility’s safety case. They must also have access to, and understanding of, the safety case so they know what actions to take to support safe operations.
NOPSEMA’s inspection process places considerable emphasis on involving the workforce, for example, opening and close out meetings generally include the participation of Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). These meetings are valuable in that they can identify specific issues that warrant attention and can also provide an insight into the prevailing culture and attitudes on-board which may be instrumental in revealing deeper issues.
HSRs are provided powers and protections under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006. Once selected, HSRs can exercise their powers immediately. The role of the HSR in facilitating workforce involvement is important. The HSR represents their fellow workers by raising their health and safety concerns with facility management and assisting them in participating in the decisions that will affect them.
NOPSEMA recently accredited a one-day HSR course for current HSRs seeking to refresh their knowledge. For more information see ifap.asn.au.
NOPSEMA also seeks to engage more broadly with organisations that represent the interests of the workforce. This engagement includes regular engagement with relevant unions and industry groups to gain insights and understand any concerns at an industry-wide level.
Recently, NOPSEMA was pleased to participate in the Health, Safety, Environment Representative (HSER) Forum hosted by Safer Together in Perth, Western Australia. HSER’s take on environmental responsibilities in addition to the those of a HSR. At the forum, many HSERs took the opportunity to come to NOPSEMA’s booth to ask questions and chat to our team of Occupational Health & Safety Regulatory Specialists, and to pick up a copy of NOPSEMA’s HSR Handbook.
As a result of the COVID pandemic and related travel restrictions, NOPSEMA recognises that many workers are now spending time in isolation, working longer swing patterns and dealing with extended separations from loved ones. These changes may lead to psychological distress or injury which may contribute to accidents or dangerous occurrences, and an overall mentally unhealthy workplace.
NOPSEMA views psychosocial hazards as a health and safety risk for which duty holders must take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable. NOPSEMA has developed guidance to assist duty holders in reducing psychosocial risk which has now been published for public comment.
NOPSEMA supports the Australian Government’s proposed amendments to the safety regulatory framework that will include a definition of health in the OPGGS Act as ’physical and psychological health’ to better support the overall wellbeing of the offshore workforce and to formalise the concept of health, as comprising both physical and mental aspects.