EU proposes new offshore health and safety rules

Paul Boughton
The EU considers that the offshore industry's current risk-management practices are inadequate and has proposed new rules. This, says Eugene McCarthy, is providing a boost to offshore training organisations at the same time.

The EU has proposed new rules to govern health and safety offshore. According to the organisation, the need for such rules is being driven by a number of major considerations. For example, oil and gas exploration and production is taking place increasingly offshore, often in complex geographical and geological environments such as deep waters. Also, the EU believes that the scale and characteristics of recent offshore oil and gas accidents and near misses reported worldwide, including the Union, demand action.

"They expose the disparity between the increasing complexity of operations and the inadequacies in the current risk-management practices. Amongst individual companies there are reported wide disparities in safety performance and attitudes. Moreover, the incidents have highlighted the challenges that regulators face in ensuring adequate oversight of offshore activities, and a lack of transparency and data sharing regarding the safety performance of the offshore industry," says the document 'Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on safety of offshore oil and gas prospection, exploration and production activities', which was published on 27 October.[Page Break]

In Europe, most oil and gas is produced offshore. A major accident at any one of Europe's offshore installations is likely to entail material losses, damage to the environment, the economy, local communities and society, while the lives and health of workers may be put at risk. So the likelihood of a major accident in Union waters needs to be reduced, says the EU.

Studies, stakeholder consultations and risk analyses conducted since 2010 have identified the main problems for the Union as: the risk of a major offshore oil or gas accident occurring in Union waters is significant and the existing fragmented legislation and diverse regulatory and industry practices do not provide for all achievable reductions in the risks throughout the Union; and the existing regulatory framework and operating arrangements do not provide for the most effective emergency response to accidents wherever they occur in Union waters, and the liabilities for clean-up and conventional damages are not fully clear.

So the two general objectives of this proposal are to reduce the risks of a major accident in Union waters, and to limit the consequences should such an accident nonetheless occur.[Page Break]

However, the proposal adds that experience shows that robust regulation and clear liability are needed to bring about the culture change in industry that will deliver the reduction in risk this regulation intends to achieve. So the two general objectives are developed into four specific objectives:

- Ensure a consistent use of best practices for major hazards control by oil and gas industry offshore operations potentially affecting Union waters or shores.

- Implement best regulatory practices in all European jurisdictions with offshore oil and gas activities.

- Strengthen the Union's preparedness and response capacity to deal with emergencies potentially affecting Union citizens, economy or environment. and

- Improve and clarify existing Union liability and compensation provisions.

While the 56-page document goes on to outline in greater detail the EU's thinking, organisations that offer offshore training are gearing up for extra business.[Page Break]

For example, in the UK, Falck Nutec has launched a brand new £550000 industrial training facility extension at its site in Teesside. The company's new centre of excellence includes 23.7m tall wind turbine tower and an external boat transfer simulator for a range of realistic offshore wind training courses, alongside a 72m square rigging and workshop area to deliver Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO)-accredited and Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) courses (Fig.1).

According to the company, these additions to the existing centre will mean that it is one of the most comprehensive offshore wind health and safety training bases in the UK, for both pool-based survival training and outdoor practical training.

Teesside centre manager Bill Whyman said of the developments: "Our new facility will allow us to deliver a wider range of specialised industrial courses. It houses a purpose-built workshop area, complete with split level rigging frames and rigging loft. In addition the main hall provides ample space for practical industrial training courses in basic forklift, mobile elevated work platforms, scaffolding, confined space and working at heights. To be able to deliver a whole suite of industry accredited courses and bespoke courses either at our centre or at client premises is highly beneficial to a number of our existing and prospective new clients."

Business development manager for renewable energy at Falck Nutec, Lisa Dodds, added that: "I am very pleased with how the launch of our new renewables and industrial training facility went. We had a good turnout of attendees from across the region and further afield, representing both the wind industry and general industry as a whole. The demonstrations we ran to showcase our training tower and boat transfer simulator were particularly well received."

Meanwhile the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI), a public-private partnership between the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), the Irish Naval Service (INS) and Focus Education, has launched five new offshore courses.

Basic Offshore Safety Induction & Emergency Training is an OPITO-approved, three-day course designed to assist in meeting the initial onshore safety training, emergency response training and assessment requirements for personnel new to the offshore oil and gas industry.

Further Offshore Emergency Training is an OPITO-approved, one-day offshore safety course which complements existing training gained in the Basic Offshore Safety & Emergency course with new skills such as helicopter escape and survival techniques.

Helicopter Underwater Egress Safety Training with Emergency Breathing Systems is also OPITO-approved and is aimed at all personnel who come in contact with helicopters.[Page Break]

Minimum Offshore Industry Safety Training is a two-day, OPITO-approved offshore safety course which is anticipated to become a requirement for all new entrants to the offshore oil and gas industry.

Finally is Offshore Wind Energy Safety Training, a two-day course is designed to give delegates the basic safety training required for working on or near offshore wind energy sites.

At John M Campbell & Company, training courses focus on accelerating the transition from new hire to fully functioning team member within the oil and gas industry. The courses are deeply technical, interactive, and facilitated by industry experts with hands-on field experience.

The company offers courses in various disciplines, including: gas processing, pipeline, production facilities, water and corrosion, mechanical, offshore, electrical and instrumentation control, refining, operations management, supply chain, and reliability engineering. As a member of the PetroSkills Alliance, John M Campbell & Company is able to engage member companies in certifying the quality and relevance of all the courses it teaches. This keeps course materials current, relevant, and industry approved.

Oil and gas training is held throughout the world. Primary locations for publicly offered courses are Houston, Orlando, London, Stavanger, Perth, and Kuala Lumpur. The duration of most training on specific topics range 3-5 days. However, more comprehensive, overview courses can last up to 10days.