The safety rep and reporting of major accident

Paul Boughton

More than ever, says John Moss, the offshore industry needs effective, knowledgeable and competent safety representatives.

European law first referred to workforce involvement in occupational safety in 1989 with the introduction of what is now usually referred to as the OSH Framework Directive. The Directive stresses the ‘importance of worker participation in the development and adoption of safe work systems’.

This concept of information sharing and workforce involvement was further strengthened in 2000 when the European Charter of Fundamental Rights was drafted and included Article 27 stating that ‘Workers or their representatives must, at the appropriate levels, be guaranteed information and consultation in good time in the cases and under the conditions provided for by Community law and national laws and practices’.

The UK and the HSE were ahead of the game therefore when in 1977 the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations were introduced; following this up in 1989 with the offshore specific Offshore Installations (Safety Representatives and Safety Committees) Regulations.

The advent of the HSE’S Offshore Division in 1991 and the introduction of the safety case system in the following year meant that duty holders then as now have to demonstrate to the enforcement authorities that major hazards are adequately controlled and that a suitable management system is in place.

A major challenge for the offshore industry and for the HSE is that 21 years after the arrival of safety cases offshore, the integrity of ageing infrastructures must to continue to be managed safely. In 2012 approximately 50 per cent of the fixed platforms on the UKCS had exceeded their original 25 year design life, with that proportion set to steadily increase over time.

Now a new EU Directive relating to offshore oil and gas prospection, exploration and production safety is about to be enacted. The Directive is likely to include significant changes to the current safety case approach to offshore safety management, placing much more focus on how major accident (including environment) hazards are reported. Effective workforce involvement is likely therefore to become an increasingly relevant factor in assisting operators in the process of identification and review of major accident hazard potential.

The HSE set targets for itself in a recent strategy document focusing on a number of key areas including:

* Building competence - ensuring that workers and managers are trained to understand, assess and manage the risks to health and safety for work;

* Involving the workforce - ensuring that workers are consulted on health and safety, and that Safety Reps and managers train together.

* Avoiding catastrophe – ensuring that major hazard sites and industries are well managed and the hazards tightly controlled.

The Executive also undertook the Offshore Workforce Involvement and Consultation project which said in its summary  ‘Duty Holders should consider their own installations and the effectiveness of their Safety Reps and consider how they might provide additional support and encourage increased involvement on their installations’.

A more involved workforce representative therefore who is better informed, trained, competent and risk aware aligns not only with HSE improvement strategies but provides the Duty Holder with a resource more effectively able to assist in identifying and reporting major accident hazards. 

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John Moss is Training Director, Anartya Ltd, Montrose, Scotland.

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