The annual survey by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway of the risk scenario in petroleum activities – RNNP – shows that many indicators are tending in the right direction and points to improvements both offshore and onshore.

"2014 was a good year, with no major accidents or fatalities in the Norwegian petroleum activities", asserts PSA Director-General Anne Myhrvold.

"We see many positive trends in the measurements for 2014, both in terms of major accident risk and in working environment risk."

In 2014, the major accident indicator was at its lowest level since the RNNP measurements began. Hydrocarbon leaks and well control incidents are among the main contributors to major accident risk.

In 2014, seven hydrocarbon leaks were recorded on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and another seven onshore greater than 0.1 kg/s. This is the second lowest number recorded to date. None of the leaks had particularly major potential and, for the NCS, the risk contribution from hydrocarbon leaks was the lowest ever recorded.

For well control incidents, the arrow is pointing in the opposite direction. For these, a small increase was recorded, from 13 incidents in 2013 to 17 incidents in 2014. Assessed in relation to the activity level, there were increases in both exploration drilling and production drilling. However, 16 of the incidents were in the lowest risk category.

Serious personal injuries

We saw a small increase in serious personal injuries from 2013 to 2014 on the NCS, but the 2014 level is still one of the lowest in the last ten years. For the onshore facilities, the frequency of serious personal injuries halved, and the level is the lowest there has been since 2006. 

At-risk groups

As part of RNNP 2014, a study was carried out of at-risk groups in the petroleum industry. This was based on questionnaire data from the period 2001-2013.

The study's results show that some groups experience systematically higher risks than others, and that there are observable correlations between different HSE conditions and self-reporting of occupational accidents involving personal injury, work-related sickness absence and work-related health complaints. The study also demonstrated clear correlations between restructuring and downsizing processes and increased risk of occupational accidents involving personal injury.

"Although the results of the study only include data up to 2013, the industry must take these findings on board and be particularly attentive to the relationship between at-risk groups and change processes. This is something that the PSA will be keeping a keen eye on in 2015, now that savings and restructuring are so predominant in the industry", says Myhrvold.

Worrying start to 2015

Overall, the picture emerging in early 2015 stands in great contrast to the RNNP results for 2014. During the first three months of the year, there have been several serious incidents with both major accident potential and personal injuries, and to date the PSA has undertaken as many as six investigations.

"Although in many areas the RNNP figures for 2014 are heading in the right direction, the start of 2015 has been worrying. This shows once again that safety is a perishable good. We are now expecting the industry to ensure that further developments in 2015 adopt the same positive trend as in 2014. The restructuring we are now seeing in the industry must not be at the cost of continuous improvements in safety", she stresses.