Posts Tagged ‘safety culture’

The most common causes of offshore fatalities and serious injuries, falls and being struck by equipment, receive little media attention because there is no blowout, oil spill, or fire. However, these are often the most difficult types of incidents to understand and prevent. Human and organizational factors predominate, and prevention is dependent on a strong culture that emphasizes worker engagement, awareness, teamwork and mutual support, effective training and employee development, risk assessment at the job, facility, company, and industry levels, stop-work authority, innovation, and continuous improvement.

This new BSEE Safety Alert addresses such a fatal incident on the Pacific Khamsin drilling rig, and makes recommendations that have widespread applicability.

Incident summary:

While unlatching the lower Marine Riser Package from the Blowout Preventor in preparation for ship relocation, a crewmember was lifted into the air after being struck by a hydraulic torque wrench (HTW), hitting a riser clamp approximately six feet above the elevated work deck before falling to the rig floor. The crew member was given first aid and transported to the drillship’s hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased.

In an upcoming post, BOE will provide historical fatality data by cause and operations category.

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Paul, his father Hank, and the rest of the Danos team have always had a strong commitment to safety achievement. In recognition of their outstanding safety, pollution prevention, and compliance record, Danos won multiple National and District MMS SAFE Awards in the Production Contractor category. Danos is also a 2-time recipient of NOIA’s Safety in Seas Award. Paul will no doubt be an outstanding NOIA leader.

NOIA press release

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As we should and must, offshore operators, contractors, and regulators suffer over every injury, leak, or potentially hazardous event. This is also true for onshore oil and gas operations and most other industries. Yet for the past 2 years, we have been waiting for a proper investigation into the origins of the Covid virus. The Daily Mail is reporting that the Director-General of the WHO now believes that the virus was released from the Wuhan lab.

How can a company have a proper safety culture in a world where this level of malfeasance and stonewalling are tolerated and rewarded?

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While the Fieldwood Energy violations drove up the number of Incidents of Non-Compliance (INCs) in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021, most operating companies appear to have had good compliance records. Among companies that were subjected to at least 10 facility inspection and drilled at least one well, BHP Billiton, Eni US, and Murphy (listed alphabetically) had the most impressive compliance records. These three operators were cited for 7 or fewer INCs, none of which required a facility to be shut-in. Other operators that exceeded those activity thresholds and had excellent compliance records were (listed alphabetically) Anadarko, ANKOR Energy, Chevron, EnVen, Shell, and Walter Oil and Gas.

In the Pacific Region, Beta Operating Co., Chevron (now overseeing the former Signal Hill properties), and Exxon had excellent compliance records, although none of these facilities produced for the full year. In Alaska, Hillcorp had an excellent record at the Northstar Unit. (This is a gravel island facility in the State waters of the Beaufort Sea, but some of the wells produce from portions of the reservoir that are in the Federal sector).

Unfortunately, only summary inspection data are posted online. Without knowing the specific violations and circumstances, it’s not possible to fully assess the risk exposure. These oil and gas operations are conducted on public lands and are monitored by Federal employees. Inspection data and reports should be publicly accessible without having to submit Freedom of Information Act requests.

As has previously been discussed, incident updates should also be posted in a timely manner. Reference is made to this important recommendation in the 2016 National Academies report entitled Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry:

Recommendation 4.2.2: Because accident, incident, and inspection data all are needed to identify and understand safety risks and corrective actions, the committee recommends full transparency such that regulators make all these data readily available to the public in a timely way, taking into consideration applicable confidentiality requirements.

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Last month (12/2021), BSEE finally posted the 2020 incident statistics. Unfortunately, no details or incident summaries are provided for the 6 fatalities. The fatalities are simply classified as “occupational” (4) or “non-occupational” (2). As a result, we still know very little about these fatal incidents 13 – 24 months after they occurred.

The BSEE spreadsheet advises that 3 of the 4 “non-occupational” fatalities are being investigated, but the reports are still “pending.” Why the long delay? The National Commission, BOEMRE-CG, and NAE investigations of the Macondo tragedy were completed (and reports published) in less time.

No explanation is provided as to why the 4th occupational fatality is not being investigated.

Also, investigations of the preparedness and response aspects of the 2 non-occupational fatalities would have been beneficial. What was the cause of death? What medical screening procedures were in place? What treatment capabilities were available at the facility? How much time was required to transport the workers to hospitals? These are important considerations for the offshore community.

Below is a summary of the publicly available information for the 6 fatalities:

  • 1/14/2020: A worker died on a Diamond drillship on a lease (Mississippi Canyon 822) operated by BP. According to BSEE this was a non-occupational fatality. Per the listing of investigations, no investigation was conducted.
  • 5/16/2020: A worker died on a Fieldwood platform (Ewing Bank 826 A). Per BSEE, this was an occupational fatality and the investigation is still pending. There were no media reports or company announcements.
  • 6/2/2020: A worker died on the Valaris DS-18 drillship working for EnVen Energy at Green Canyon 767. Per BSEE, this was a non-occupational fatality and no investigation was conducted.
  • 6/20/2020: A worker died on at the Green Canyon 18 A platform operated by Talos. Per BSEE, this was an occupational fatality but no investigation is indicated for this incident. No media reports or company announcements could be found.
  • 8/23/2020: A worker died on the Pacific Khamsin drillship working for Total at Garden Banks 1003. A month later, at an Investors’ Day presentation, Total announced that the incident occurred while the crew was preparing to move the rig to avoid Tropical Storm Laura. Total’s statement included this defensive statement: “This is a routine operation that was executed with no time pressure as the rig disconnection had been decided well in advance.” Per Total, the findings of their investigation were shared with the regulators in Sept. 2020, but BSEE advises that their investigation is still pending.
  • 12/2/2020: A worker died on DCOR’s Platform Gilda in the Santa Barbara Channel offshore California. The BSEE investigations update provides no information on the status of the investigation. Per local media, 3 men fell from the platform and others jumped into the water to assist. No information is provided on the reason why the 3 men fell.

The number of US OCS fatalities remains unacceptably high, and timely data sharing and investigations are needed to better assess causes and trends. In that regard, this recommendation from the 2016 National Academies report entitled “Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry” merits further industry/government attention and action:

Recommendation 4.2.2: Because accident, incident, and inspection data all are needed to identify and understand safety risks and corrective actions, the committee recommends full transparency such that regulators make all these data readily available to the public in a timely way, taking into consideration applicable confidentiality requirements.

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Noble’s Aug. 29 statementNoble’s Sept. 2 statement
Each rig successfully secured its respective well in progress and took evasive actions to avoid the storm’s path.” (No mention of the delay in relocating the Globetrotter II or the rig, riser, and LMRP damage already reported on social media.)“several riser joints and the lower marine riser package separated from the rig during the storm and sank to the seabed.” (Confirms social media reports.)
“All personnel are safe and accounted for.” (No mention of the injuries alluded to in social media reports.)A small number of crew members were treated for minor injuries.” (The actual number was 9, i.e. not a small number, 4 of whom had to be transported to shore for further evaluation.)
“One of the ship’s cofferdams in the moonpool area sustained damage.” (Update: The storm broke part of the hull, which allowed water into some compartments. Per the ship’s master, the vessel was not in distress and not actively taking on water.)

In a proper safety culture, you don’t downplay serious incidents and you never declare victory. Spin control is for politicians, not safety leaders. The Globetrotter II, with 140 workers aboard, was slammed by a major hurricane, perhaps unnecessarily. After the frightening social media reports, Noble released an “all is well” statement that minimized the significance and potential consequences of the delayed rig relocation. Noble continued to downplay the incident when they update their statement 5 days later.

The Coast Guard and BSEE will be investigating the Globetrotter II relocation, and their findings will be of great interest. Noble has historically been a very good drilling contractor with a strong commitment to safe operations. Hopefully, they and others will learn and apply lessons from this and similar events that have occurred in the Gulf and elsewhere. Companies may also want to assess the compatibility of their messaging practices with their commitment to a robust safety culture and continuous improvement.

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Comprehensive and timely incident data are critical for risk assessments, preventing recurrences, training and safety management programs, assessing the performance of the industry and individual companies, and driving safety culture. The National Academies 2021 review of BSEE’s inspection program included a number of recommendations related to data management including this one:

Recommendation 2. To further its goal of increasing data transparency and facilitating its internal and external use, BSEE should invest in more advanced and creative data collection, analytic and visualization tools, and infrastructure; corresponding data management, analysis, and evaluation capabilities among its personnel; and an outward-facing, online data system that can be navigated with ease and kept current across all fields for the purpose of encouraging and facilitating safety analyses.

National Academies Report, 2021

Unfortunately, BSEE’s incident data are not updated and posted in a timely manner. As we approach September 2021, the 2020 incident statistics are still not publicly available. These incidents include at least one rig fatality that neither BSEE nor the Coast Guard announced at the time of occurrence one year ago today (8/23/2020) or subsequently. The only public information about this fatality is the following self-serving statement by the operator:

“This is a routine operation that was executed with no time pressure as the rig disconnection had been decided well in advance,” Total said.


A 37-year old man died, but according to the operator there is nothing to see here. This is not the type of statement you would expect from a company with a leading safety culture.

The keystone of BSEE’s primary mission, protecting workers and the environment, is timely incident information that is regularly reviewed and updated. Continuous improvements in safety are dependent on continuous improvements in data management and analysis. BSEE can do much better, as can other regulators, the offshore industry, and those of us who are interested and concerned observers.

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The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has initiated an investigation following an incident in connection with a lifting operation on the Gullfaks A facility on 28 February 2011.

See the full PSA announcement

Comment: PSA is applauded for their transparency in reporting accidents. When every regulator, operator, and contractor routinely posts accident information on their home page, we will have made a major step forward in collectively improving the safety culture and preventing future incidents.

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An artist's reconstruction of columbi sergiodlarosa -- a Columbian Mammoth.

Every day workers demonstrate that they want to do their jobs well, prevent accidents, and protect the environment.  Only a few workers are “Not My Job Award” candidates.   A bulldozer driver did the right thing in Colorado and the result is the fossil find of the century:

The idea to dig at Snowmass was sparked after a bulldozer driver stumbled upon what he believed to be the remains of a mammoth in the small town’s reservoir. The driver contacted the Denver Museum of Natural Science about his discovery, and the museum immediately sent up a team to investigate, uncovering a hidden trove of prehistoric remnants unlike any other.

While the mammoth fossils and the scientists are receiving most of the attention, the real star is the bulldozer driver.

Lately, we have heard a lot about offshore workers who made mistakes, and it’s important that we learn more about those mistakes so we can prevent their recurrence.  However, workers have the most at stake and are the people who are most committed to accident prevention.  We need to embrace this commitment by fostering a culture that allows workers to be safety leaders, not just implementers who follow directives from managers and regulators.

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This week I read two pioneering PSA publications: HSE and Culture and Thought Processes.  In January 2002, Norway became the first offshore petroleum regulator to require that companies have a sound health, safety, and environmental culture. The purpose of the two publications was to help industry better understand the concept of HSE and Culture and the goals of the regulation. I recommend that you take a few moments and  take a look at the publications.

Excerpt from HSE and Culture:

Organisations with a sound HSE culture are characterised by the ability to learn, and constantly question their own practice and patterns of interaction. Informed organisations accommodate dialogue and critical reflection on their own practices. People respect each other’s expertise and are willing to share and furtherdevelop their HSE knowledge.

Excerpt from Thought Processes

Vulnerability deals with the relationship between cause and effect. A vulnerable system can be completely disabled – permanently – by a single non-conformance or a series of errors. That sounds dramatic, and fairly unlikely. But it has happened:

• Alexander L Kielland flotel
• P-36 floating platform
• Piper Alpha platform
•Sleipner A GBS

And it can happen again. Because vulnerability begins in the brain. When things are going well, people easily become over-confident. Traditional constraints are challenged and established practices rejected. The consequences spread to the rest of the production system in the formof untried technology, complex solutions, faster execution times and narrower safety margins.

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