Managing health and safety in the oil and gas industry has always been a complex challenge.
But economic pressures have created additional hurdles that need to be overcome.
The industry has been through a particularly challenging period since the beginning of the oil price downturn in 2014.
However, the multitude of risks present on sites, including the presence of combustible toxic atmospheres and machine hazards, still need to be managed as companies now have to meet health and safety requirements on tighter budgets.
We have seen an influx of new innovations into the sector with drones and mobile-operated technology becoming part of daily operations. In the new era of caution in the industry, could technological innovation be the solution?
What are the challenges in 2017?
Incidents on oil and gas sites have the potential to escalate quickly. The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) UKCS Gas release data notes that 3,272 gas release incidents were reported between 2000 and 2015 – 198 of which occurred while a site was in shutdown. 68, more than a quarter, resulted in an ignition incident.
The potential number of risks associated with these incidents is considerable and the responsibility for site safety lies with operators.
Ensuring the safety of employees is of paramount importance to operators, so many have had to look for new solutions.
The HSE implemented the Fee for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery regime in 2012. The regulation allows for the HSE to recover costs for carrying out inspections on sites that are found to be in material breach of health and safety laws.
With an hourly rate of £129 and no cap with the amount billed being based on the hours spent on the investigation, unexpected costs can quickly become significant under the new legislation.
The additional cost and resources needed to address required health and safety regulations means it is becoming increasingly hard to meet regulatory requirements. Cost cutting can inadvertently cause individuals to cut corners and with many companies under greater financial strain, non-essential works have been delayed and in some cases, critical repair schedules have been pushed back.
Finding the balance between operational efficiency and maintaining high health and safety standards has become an even greater challenge in recent years.
Read more: The key to safer working