The annual survey by the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) of the risk scenario in the petroleum activities – RNNP – shows that a number of indicators are moving in the wrong direction. This stands in stark contrast to the industry's stated focus on HSE.

Whereas in 2014, the major accident indicator was at its lowest level since the RNNP measurements began, the arrow has tilted in the other direction in 2015. There were several incidents with major accident potential during the year, and one fatal accident.

Compared with previous measurements, the annual questionnaire-based survey shows that offshore employees increasingly think that the companies are deprioritising HSE. They are also experiencing greater pressure to work in a way that threatens safety, and less ability to influence the HSE situation themselves.

"The RNNP results are a warning. They indicate that something might be starting to happen to the safety level in the petroleum activities", says PSA Director-General Anne Myhrvold. 

"The figures justify questioning whether safety isn't at a crossroads. The ambition of continuous improvement and ongoing risk-reduction may be at issue.

"At times like these, when streamlining, downsizing and savings are the industry's order of the day, it is especially important to protect and reinforce established arenas and projects for improving safety. It is also important to maintain good tripartite cooperation, which often comes under pressure during downturns.

"The PSA wishes to find out how the companies and the industry organisations are using the results from RNNP and what specifically they are doing to reverse the negative results. This will be an important aspect to our audits, in our contact with the industry organisations and in the Safety Forum."

Myhrvold emphasises that RNNP measures trends over time.

"Although we cannot demonstrate a direct correlation between the RNNP results and the changes the industry is currently undergoing, it is important to see if the results are temporary or part of a trend.

The companies must now use the RNNP results to establish a firm foundation for the years to come. The present shapes the future. This is a truth that the entire industry needs to be aware of going ahead. Short-termism will be penalised."

More hydrocarbon leaks

Hydrocarbon leaks and well control incidents are significant contributors to major accident risk. In 2015, ten hydrocarbon leaks exceeding 0.1 kg/s were recorded on the continental shelf. This is the highest number recorded since 2011. Similarly, onshore, there were 13 hydrocarbon leaks exceeding 0.1 kg/s, against seven leaks in the year before. The contribution to the total indicator in 2015 is among the highest in years without leaks exceeding 10 kg/s.

15 well control incidents were recorded in 2015, a small decrease from the 17 incidents in the year before, but an increase in the risk potential. There were no incidents in the high severity category.

Barriers remain a concern

In the area of barrier management, the results show that there are difficulties in certain areas in meeting the industry requirements.

"In the light of the great amount of attention given to this area in recent years, it is surprising that there has not been a more clearly positive trend for key barriers", says Myhrvold.

More serious personal injuries

The number of serious personal injuries rose in 2015, and we also had the first fatal accident on the shelf since 2009. The accident occurred on 30 December when a wave hit the COSLInnovator mobile facility and caused substantial damage to the accommodation module. One person lost his life.

Over the long term, in the period from 2005 to 2013, there was a downward trend in the frequency of serious personal injuries. But the last two years have seen an increase. For the onshore facilities, the frequency of serious personal injuries rose, and the level is the third highest since 2006 when measurements began. 

Positive maintenance figures

The maintenance management data for production facilities show a clear reduction in 2015 in the total backlog of preventive maintenance, for both HSE-critical equipment and equipment in general. The 2015 figures are the lowest since reporting began in 2010. Hours spent on preventive maintenance increased between 2011 and 2015.

The total outstanding HSE-critical corrective maintenance also shows a reduction from 2014 to 2015.