HSE feedback on HCR challenge

Article by Amanda Jasi

Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Britain’s national workplace health and safety regulator, has fed back to industry on its hydrocarbon release (HCR) challenge.

In April this year HSE’s director of energy division, Chris Flint, wrote a letter to all offshore oil and gas production operators in the North Sea urging them to do more to tackle HCRs. The letter was in reaction to continued major HCRs in the North Sea. It identified failings that led to releases and asked that senior leaders critically review their operations in order to identify where improvements could be made. Industry was given until 20 July to explain what measures it is taking to improve performance.

Recently, HSE met with representatives from Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) and health and safety managers from several of the UK’s offshore producers. Together they discussed industry’s plans for improving safety leadership, audit, and assurance.  

At the OGUK meeting the HSE shared several examples of individual good practice that it had identified from the letters. One example was the use of structured protocols by senior leaders when attending offshore installations to ensure effective engagement.

HSE also identified the benefit of defining the safety process behaviour expected for each specific role within the organisation which could therefore enable everyone to be clear on the action they need to take to prevent major incidents.

During the meeting HSE presented observations it had made in the last year during its programme of operational integrity inspections. Audit and assurance systems were identified as still being a priority for improvement. Areas of management of change, and safe isolation and reinstatement of plant were also recognised to be particular weaknesses. These have been significant casual factors in recent HCRs.

Russell Breen, operations manager in HSE’s energy division commented on the responses received from industry, saying: “It’s clear from the responses we received that a much greater focus has been placed on process safety management within the industry in recent years, and there are some great individual examples of leadership commitment being shown.”

He added: “Finding better, more expedient ways of sharing both the causes and learnings from incidents, as well as the examples of good and bad practice we find through our inspections, is a challenge that remains for us all.

“Good progress has been made on this in recent months, and we will continue to engage with OGUK to help facilitate such sharing, for the benefit of everyone in the industry.”

HSE said it welcomes steps that the offshore oil and gas industry proposed to enable better learning. It also welcomes the commitments made by process safety management to address HCR.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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