Offshore health and safety report highlights challenges facing industry

Friday, 10 July, 2009

The National Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) recently launched its first annual ‘Offshore Health and Safety Performance Report 2007–08’ which indicates a number of safety challenges facing the Australian offshore petroleum industry.

The report contains analyses of incidents reported during the year 2007–08 and summary data for previous years.

“Although the safety record of Australia’s offshore petroleum industry is reasonable compared with many other industries, there is room for improvement, particularly when the performance is compared to that of petroleum operations in other countries,” said NOPSA CEO John Clegg.

According to the report, challenges facing the industry include:

  • improving leadership — strong leadership is required for the Australian industry to move to the next level;
  • dealing with a shortage of skilled personnel; and
  • managing ageing facilities and minimising gas releases.

Gas releases are a concern as they are an indicator of the potential for a major accident event on an offshore facility. They are often related to facility integrity issues and the most common root causes for incidents related to facility integrity continue to be equipment design and maintenance deficiencies, particularly backlogs in the maintenance of safety-critical equipment. NOPSA emphasises the need for operators to focus on the integrity of their facilities and the implementation and auditing of effective maintenance systems.

The report indicates that personal injury rates have remained steady but are relatively high compared with other countries. A significant number of personal injuries related to lifting operations, where the root causes were problems relating to procedures, training and maintenance. Many of those injured were relatively inexperienced in the job.

Dangerous occurrences increased over the reporting period. Although these do not involve personal injury, they are considered lead indicators of how industry is managing safety. In particular, the rate of dangerous occurrences involving damage to safety-critical equipment showed significant increase, highlighting the ongoing challenge of dealing with ageing facilities.

NOPSA will use the results in its performance report to influence its inspections of offshore facilities over the coming period.

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