Safeopedia | 19 November 2015

Safety Moment: Confined Spaces

“When my employer said he wanted to send me on a training course so that I could work safely in confined spaces, I thought it was a bit unnecessary. Was he worried about me bumping my head or something? What an eye-opener! I never realized that there were so many dangers involved in working in a confined space or that there had been so many terrible accidents related to confined-space work.”

One of the biggest dangers of working in a confined spaces is the lack of multiple escape routes should anything go wrong. For example, five workers died after a fire broke out in a confined space at a hydroelectric plant in Colorado. They were able to stay out of the flames, but they succumbed to oxygen deprivation as rescue workers struggled to gain access to the tunnel in which they had been working.

This accident also underlines the danger of fumes building up in confined spaces. In a 2014 accident at the Corona brewery, several workers died because of toxic air quality. The saddest thing about these deaths is that they could have been prevented if adequate risk assessments had been conducted and appropriate safety precautions had been taken.

Engineering and Technology History Wiki | 6 November 2015

History of Operational Safety Awareness in the US Gulf of Mexico: A Personal Recollection

The operational safety of workers and the public during all aspects of offshore activities is of paramount importance. By “operational safety,” I mean safety and environmental protection aspects in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of drilling and producing systems. The industry has always been concerned with operational safety. After all, no one wants to be killed or be the cause of a fellow worker or employee to lose his life or be seriously injured. However, our awareness of how to act on that concern and what is possible from the standpoint of safety has changed over the years.

It could be quite a complicated undertaking to address every change that has taken place in attitudes and regulations over a half of a century of innovation. In 1964, the industry wondered if it was possible to develop oil fields in 600 ft of water, we had just seen the building of the first semisubmersible drilling rig (Bluewater I) and the first subsea wells producing to shore (Molino offshore in California), and there were no floating production facilities as development options. Rather than attempting to write a detailed book-length accounting of this subject, this is merely a personal recollection of the main changes as I experienced them.

The history of operational safety awareness by industry in the US Gulf of Mexico is one of periods of slow improvements with dramatic step changes after major accidents. I wish it were otherwise, but, in reality, the industry has historically only responded with major changes in the way it designs and operates its offshore drilling and production activities in the face of negative publicity from a few highly visible and publicized accidents and the threat of regulations. Thus, the history of safety awareness by industry is generally, with many specific company exceptions, a history of major accidents, the threat of new regulations, and industry’s response to these threats to assure the regulations are both practical and efficient.

Maersk Oil Qatar | 6 November 2015

Maersk Oil Qatar Expands Commitment to Road Safety

Maersk Oil Qatar (MOQ) has reinforced its commitment to road safety in Qatar through a sponsorship of the 24th International Traffic Medicine Association (ITMA) Congress being held for the first time in Doha, Qatar. The sponsorship builds on MOQ’s extensive support for Qatar’s One Second national road safety brand and other traffic medicine initiatives.

The 24th World ITMA Congress will be held 16–18 November for the first time in the Middle East under the patronage of Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. International experts from around the world will present the latest studies and research related to traffic medicine and traffic safety.

The sponsorship is one of numerous road safety initiatives from MOQ to assist the country to achieve the National Traffic Medicine Strategy Goal 2013–22. For example, MOQ sponsored a knowledge-sharing visit to the Swedish Vision Zero authorities in 2014, followed by a PowerTalk road safety event this year with key stakeholders in Qatar. And more than 6,000 young adults have so far participated in Students for Road Safety—an MOQ awareness program that aims to transform students into ambassadors for positive road behaviors.

Sheikh Faisal bin Fahad Al-Thani, deputy managing director of  Maersk Oil Qatar, said, “MOQ has a proud history of supporting schemes that bring meaningful benefits to Qatar, and, as part of a global conglomerate, the Maersk Group is ambitious and committed to Qatar for generations to come. Road safety is a huge challenge for all countries, including Qatar, so I’m pleased that we are helping to bring the brightest experts to Qatar to look for solutions at the 24th World ITMA Congress.”

The sponsorship agreement was signed by Brig. Engineer Muhammad Abdullah Al Maliki, secretary of the National Traffic Safety Committee and chairperson of the Organizing Committee, and Sheikh Faisal bin Fahad Al Thani, MOQ’s deputy managing director, in the presence of Capt. Mubarak Salim Al Bouainain, assistant director of the Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Interior.

The motto of the 24th ITMA Congress is “Traffic Medicine and Road Safety in Fast Developing Countries.” Delegates will be drawn from medical doctors, physiologists, psychologists, traffic safety experts, vehicle designers and manufacturers, engineers, policy makers, police officers, and insurance experts.

The group of experts will share the most advanced traffic medicine concepts and techniques to help prevent traffic crashes and boost traffic safety, first-aid, and medical treatment and, in the process, reduce deaths and disability cases.

Read more about the 24th ITMA Congress here.







Penn Live | 23 October 2015

OSHA Inspects Less Than 3% of Shale Drilling Sites in Pennsylvania

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has inspected less than 3% of Marcellus Shale drilling sites in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 9,500 unconventional wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since 2004, and records reveal the federal agency has inspected 254 of those work sites during the last 10 years.

OSHA’s Wilkes-Barre office conducted 133 inspections, the Erie office logged 73 inspections, Pittsburgh had 37, and Harrisburg recorded 11 inspections. The Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh offices oversee counties with several thousand wells, while there are few in Harrisburg’s territory.

In all regions, some operators and sites were inspected multiple times, while others weren’t inspected at all.

23 October 2015 | Rigzone

The Increasing Safety Investment of North Sea Energy Firms

In July, oil and gas industry skills organization OPITO reported a 250% rise in the number of North Sea energy firms investing in systems that assess and develop workforce competence and safety.

According to the organization, more and more of these energy companies, which typically run bespoke competence management systems (CMS), are seeking approval from OPITO of their CMS in order to gain globally recognized endorsement and add credibility to their internal competence structures.

An OPITO representative said the organization received enquiries from 20 companies, from January to August alone, including majors such as BP, regarding OPITO CMS approval. BP recently became the latest major operator to achieve approval for its in-house competence management system, after a series of independent audits carried out by OPITO found that processes within BP met all 20 best practice points of the criteria necessary to help ensure competence.

This accreditation makes BP one of just a handful of companies whose competence management system was endorsed by OPITO with no additional requirements or recommendations. Other notable energy firms that have achieved OPITO CMS approval include BG Group, Total E&P UK, Shell Nigeria Exploration & Production Co, Petrofac Offshore Engineering & Operations, Wood Group PSN, and the Cameron-Schlumberger joint venture OneSubsea.

The latest trend in safety system investment recorded by OPITO should help to improve the North Sea’s oil and gas industry safety record, which currently includes some alarming statistics. There have been fatalities in the UK’s offshore oil and gas sector every year since 2011–12, with the exception of 2012–13, and the number of injuries that lasted over 7 days (O7D) has increased consecutively every year since 2012–13, with 125 O7D injuries registered in the last year alone, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s annual Offshore Statistics & Regulatory Activity Report 2014–15, which was released 23 September. The report also states that there were 16 major/specified injuries in 2014–15 and reveals that 369 dangerous occurrences were recorded in the last year, of which more than one-fifth were hydrocarbon releases.

Ocean News & Technology

DNV GL To Lead Project Developing End-of-Life Guidance for Offshore Installations

DNV GL, in collaboration with Decom North Sea, is seeking industry partners to participate in a joint industry project. The project will develop industry guidance to assist in effective and cost-efficient major accident hazard management for installations during late-life and end-of-life operations. It will also facilitate Safety Case compliance through cessation of production, well plug and abandonment, decommissioning, dismantlement, and removal.

Image courtesy of DNV GL.

While there is considerable experience, guidance, and clarity on managing major accident hazards during the operational life of an installation, there is relatively little knowledge on effective risk management for the late-life phases, leading into cessation of production, through to final installation removal. This period can extend for many years and it can include step changes in major accident hazards risk and has considerable uncertainty.

EHS Journal | 19 October 2015

Key Performance Indicators for HSE Audit Programs

There continues to be intense discussion in the health, safety, and environment (HSE) audit community over how to evaluate the performance of audit programs. Senior executives in both private and public sector organizations want to know whether audit programs are meeting expectations and resulting in compliance improvements. Further, they are looking for clear measures that help them make that determination. Unfortunately, all too often, the focus is on reporting the total number of findings on audits as a simple and easily understood metric—and it is both of these. But is this metric meaningful?

The short answer to the question is no, principally because all findings are not created equal. For example, as discussed in a previous article by this author, “Let’s say that an audit team finds that a regulatory program does not exist at a site because the site erroneously believes that the program does not apply to them. One finding. A second team visits the site 2 years later and finds that much work has been undertaken and the program has been largely implemented. However, there are still four administrative requirements that are not being met completely. Four findings. It’s pretty clear that the one finding on the first audit far outstrips the importance of the four findings on the second audit. Hence, if one were using total number of findings as a measure, the results would be quite misleading.”

As also discussed in the previous article, similar fallacious logic is sometimes applied to other outcomes that might be anticipated by the implementation of an audit program, including a reduction in environmental releases and workplace injuries or improved compliance as defined by a reduction in fines and enforcement actions. And, in fact, even expecting a reduction in the number of overall findings on audits year-on-year can be misleading as well. This is principally due to change, which could include, among other factors, changes in management at the site, changes in the products manufactured and chemicals used, changes in physical facilities and equipment (e.g., decommissioning and startup of new process equipment); or changes in the volume and severity of regulations affecting the site. It’s interesting to note that federal US HSE regulations alone (i.e., Titles 29 and 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations) have increased by more than 3,200 pages in the past 5 years. This has consequences in meeting the goal of full compliance.

  • If all of the above factors aren’t the best measures of success, how then should one approach this issue of assessing the performance of HSE audit programs? First, it might be valuable to identify the five fundamental questions that one would ask of any audit program in order to assess its effectiveness. They are:
  • Has the universe of auditable facilities been identified?
  • Are the facility audits being conducted at appropriate frequencies based on the risks posed?
  • Are the audits conducted professionally using independent, qualified auditors supported by appropriate audit tools (e.g., protocols, regulatory databases)?
  • Are audit reports issued promptly and are the identified audit findings corrected in a timely fashion?
  • Is there a sense from the outcomes of the audits that the sites are actually improving?

Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that would help to answer these questions might go a long way toward understanding the value that an audit program provides. This article attempts to do that by posing a set of eight KPIs, which are summarized along with candidate annual performance metrics. Five of the KPIs focus on how well the program is managed, and three focus on the actual outcomes of the audits. The remainder of this article explains the nature of each of the KPIs and their metrics in much more detail. The entire set of KPIs can help to answer the question: “Is the audit program meeting its objectives and is it making a difference?”

LinkedIn | 15 October 2015

Column: Shark-Infested Safety—Re-Evaluating Risk and Finding Freedom From Fear

At a dinner party last weekend, the conversation turned to work. When asked what I did for a living, I replied “I work in safety.” My inquisitor responded promptly with “Ah, I see. So you’re that guy that stops people doing things because they might be a little bit risky … .”

It seems that our reputation continues to precede us wherever we go. How many times have you, as a practitioner or leader in OSH, found the profession at the center of a joke that concludes that we are “risk-averse, action-stopping do-gooders?”

Sure, while I am happy to see people enjoying a good laugh, there’s a massive misconception here.  If we are to truly do our job of protecting people, planet, and profit, we must face toward risk, not away from it.

I was recently asked to give a TED talk to share my views on safety and risk. Using a very personal experience, my central point was that life is not about avoiding risk at all cost but rather it is about developing the confidence to manage risk appropriately and enable great things to happen.

Despite the society most of us live in being safer and more comfortable than ever before, we seem to have built a culture of fear that promotes hesitancy and over-caution. We see this manifesting every day in our working lives. From organizational leaders anxious of anything and everything that has the most remote possibility of causing the slightest injury, to even our professional peers over-zealously ramming the “safety first” mentality to the top of corporate agendas, often causing great rifts as they jam safety head-to-head with productivity.

What happened? Fear. Our perspectives on risk have slid to a point where we often struggle to see the true picture. Media manipulation sideswipes objective thinking and skews robust decision-making. We can all think of stories about “how safety has stopped something:—whether it be hanging flower baskets taken down for fear of them falling on someone’s head or children’s playgrounds razed. The modern mantra associated with these “safety risks” is always “But, what if … ?”

Offshore Energy Today | 15 October 2015

Offshore Safety: Don’t Fall in the Paperwork Trap

Day 2 of Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference (OEEC) being held in Amsterdam started with a technical session with offshore safety as a topic.

As the EU Offshore Safety Directive came into force in July 2015, this session looked at the consequences of the new directive and shared the experience of different stakeholders in implementing the changes.

It also looked at the challenges of diverging safety regimes between countries, partners, and industry organizations and explored the need for collaboration.

This session was a journey of implementation of the EU Offshore Safety Directive from the perspectives of operator, drilling contractor, and independent verifier.

The session’s moderator was George Galloway, director at WellSpec, and the speakers were Gert-Jan Windhorst, deputy secretary general, NOGEPA; Jürgen Joosten, HSE manager NL operations, Centrica Production Nederland; Ben Oudman, head of gas consulting and services, DNV GL— Oil & Gas Netherlands; and Bram Leerdam, HSE&Q manager, Paragon Offshore.

Windhorst reminded the audience how the industry got here after the Piper Alpha and Macondo accidents. Windhorst said that accidents could be prevented and that the focus should be on smaller companies and operations and on what prevents accidents to happen. Windhorst emphasized: “Don’t fall in the paperwork trap.”

Hydrocarbon Processing | 6 October 2015

CSB Probe of DuPont’s Deadly Chemical Leak Finds Process Safety Lapses

An ongoing investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) of the 15 November 2014 toxic chemical leak that killed four workers at DuPont’s insecticide plant in La Porte, Texas, has uncovered flawed safety procedures, design problems, and inadequate planning.

Nearly 24,000 lbm of deadly methyl mercaptan escaped in the middle of the night through two valves in a poorly ventilated manufacturing building. In one area of the plant, operations personnel attempted to clear blocked piping. Later, in a different area, two workers opened valves in response to what they believed was a routine, unrelated pressure problem.

The two workers were killed when liquid methyl mercaptan drained from the open valves, filling the room with toxic vapor. One of those workers made a distress call, and two additional workers died responding to that call.

Ocean News & Technology | 25 September 2015

BSEE Conducts Unannounced Oil Spill Exercise With Gulf of Mexico Operator

Analysts and engineers from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) Oil Spill Preparedness Division and Gulf of Mexico Region recently conducted an unannounced spill drill of Arena Offshore. The 9-September 1-day exercise simulated a loss of well control event from a platform in shallow water, approximately 35 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. These exercises test an operator’s response to an incident using their oil spill response plan.

Arena Offshore currently operates more than 30 oil and gas fields on the Gulf of Mexico Shelf, comprising approximately 95 platforms and more than 190 producing wells. The company typically drills 20 to 30 wells per year and has operated more than 200 offshore drill wells in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of Arena Offshore.

As part of the drill, Arena Offshore was required to respond to a simulated loss of well control due to a potential blowout of the well. During an exercise, an operator demonstrates successful notifications and implements other elements included in its oil spill response plan. The operator worked from its offices in The Woodlands, Texas, while coordinating simulated response actions with its contracted spill response company in Slidell, Louisiana, throughout the exercise. BSEE staff observed the operator’s response in both locations. The US Coast Guard and US Fish and Wildlife Service also attended the exercise.

Offshore Energy Today | 25 September 2015

BSEE Makes Waves for Oil Spill Response Research

Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility, recently hosted a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)-contracted team of scientists from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) who evaluated the ability of the test tank wave generator to produce breaking waves at designated areas in the tank.

BSEE maintains and operates the Ohmsett facility, which is used by numerous government agencies, private companies, academic organizations, and international organizations to conduct oil spill response research, testing and training. According to BSEE, the Ohmsett facility houses the largest wave/tow tank in North America; marine energy-related technologies are also tested there.

BSEE is working to develop a means of generating predictable and reproducible breaking waves in the tank to be able to quantify and compare the effect of the energy from breaking waves on oil mitigation systems and energy-capturing devices. The NJIT team experimented with two methods for generating breaking waves at preset locations and time intervals, while collecting wave data to be analyzed with a fluid dynamics software program.