Systems Safety Management and Safety Culture: Avoiding Major Disasters in Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Operations

AOOGG 2014As a follow up to the Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines (2009), PAME developed a project and a report on Systems Safety Management and Safety Culture with an the overall objective to "Avoid Major Disasters in Offshore Oil and Gas Operations," in the Arctic.

This guidance document was intended to provide tools and approaches for reducing the threat of catastrophic effects of major oil and gas related accidents, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident.

Arctic States have an important role to play in both regulating and influencing the safety of oil and gas operations in the Arctic.

This projects purpose is to provide more targeted guidance on protecting the marine environment from major accidents by improving safety management systems and safety culture in Arctic offshore petroleum operations. To that end, in preparing the current guide, PAME drew on investigations and recommendations from the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as numerous other investigations and hearings.

In developing this project, PAME also benefited from discussions and recommendations from two specific workshops involving international experts from governments, various industries, academia, indigenous peoples organizations, and other Arctic stakeholders.

The report examines the importance of the over-arching issues of Coordination among Regulators and Safety Culture and focuses on some key issues and challenges, as well as some recommended actions or approaches that regulators should pursue for improving system safety when regulating or influencing the safety of offshore oil and gas operations in the Arctic for the following nine (9) Safety Management categories:

  • Continuous ImprovementRisk Assessment/Hazard Identification

  • Management of Change

  • Training and Competence for the Arctic

  • Accountability and Responsibility

  • Operating Procedures

  • Quality Assurance/Mechanical Integrity

  • Documentation and Reporting

  • Communications 

On April 20, 2010, the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, operating in the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded and sank resulting in the death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon and the largest spill of oil in the history of marine oil drilling operations. This ‘blowout’ lasted nearly 90 days before being capped. The tragedy of 11 lives lost and over 200 million gallons of crude oil that leaked into the Gulf made it the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history. The economic, environmental and social impacts of this disaster are still being felt by many communities around the Gulf. If such an incident were to occur in the Arctic offshore, the outcome could be much worse.

The Deepwater Horizon accident was instrumental in the development of this project. Referenced extensively in the report, the Executive Summary describes how interest in Arctic offshore petroleum resources and anticipation of increased activities in the region continues to grow. As a result, there has also been a growing concern about the potential negative effects an increase in these activities might have on the Arctic marine environment and its communities.

These concerns grew even more acute following the Deepwater Horizon.


Health Safety and Environmental Management Systems Workshop (Iceland, 2012)
Safety Culture Workshop (Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2012)
PAME held a Health Safety and Environmental Management Systems (HSEMS) Workshop in Keflavik, Iceland 10-12 June.

The meeting was attended by 22 people and featured 10 invited presentations. Attendees included representatives from the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, PAME, EPPR, indigenous peoples organizations, national coast guards, environmental protection offshore oil and gas regulatory agencies, academia, and oil and gas associations.

The workshop began with presentations on topics such as Deepwater Horizon assessments and investigations, offshore drilling, and the national Health Safety and Environment (HSE) management systems currently in place in Norway, Greenland, United States and Canada and the HSE sections of the Arctic Council Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines, 2009. During day two, the background and status of the EPPR RP3 project was presented along with the PAME HSEMS project.
The main single message from the workshop was answering the question of what is the government's and Arctic Council's role in how to improve "Safety Culture" in the industry.
Supporting documents:
The Safety Culture Workshop was convened as a result of the discussions and conclusions of the Health Safety and Environmental Management Systems (HSEMS) Workshop conducted June 10-12, 2012. The purpose of the workshop was to inform the PAME HSEMS Project on “safety culture” in the Arctic offshore oil and gas industry, which was identified as a fundamental issue for safe and environmentally sound operations at the HSEMS workshop.

The one-day workshop consisted of a group of invited experts and stakeholders and presentations from various industries and government bodies who provided information on the subject of “safety culture” as it applies to the prevention of systems/process failure accidents and pollution incidents.
Questions to aid discussions on Safety culture included:

- What can we learn in the Arctic from the Deepwater Horizon and other offshore drilling accidents?
- What can we learn in the Arctic oil and gas industry and regulatory community from other industries and activities such as Naval, Aviation and Nuclear?
- What is the advice regarding Arctic offshore operations that can be given to regulators and policy makers?


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