Guidance for UK Offshore Safety Case Regs 2015

23 July 2015

As required by the EU, the revised regulations came into force on 19 July, and the second draft of the associated guidance (HSE ref L154) was published on 20 July. The previous draft issued in April has been fully revised, in particular by adding paragraph numbers, which makes referencing easier. Much of the wording is unchanged, but in some cases it is crisper and more readily understood.

For those unfamiliar with the background, the revisions are required to fully implement the EU Offshore Safety Directive. Whilst the agreed intention was to minimise changes to the 2005 UK legislation as it defined what was judged by many in the UK as a ‘best in class’ regulatory regime, there are in fact a number of key changes – some small, others much more significant. These are helpfully summarised in paras 48-60 of this Guidance. All OSH professionals working in the UK sector are advised at least to review this section in detail to determine whether and how the processes and responsibilities in the organisation(s) they advise may need to be updated or reinforced, if that is not already in hand.

Persons involved in Safety Case compilation and submissions and in well-related submissions will have much more to do, though changes in these requirements and the associated transitional arrangements have already been well flagged by both the competent authority (HSE & part of DSEE working together) and industry bodies.

The Guidance emphasises how workforce involvement must be part of the safety case revision process (paras 28-34). OSH professionals will no doubt have a role in this, even when not themselves responsible for compiling the documents.

For those working outside the UK sector, paras 2-46 provide a helpful summary of the current UK offshore regulatory regime and the roles of both duty holders and the regulator. They reinforce the lessons learned from the well blowouts at both Montara (Australia, 2009) and Macondo (USA, 2010). These lessons include that there are typically both safety and environmental impacts from a major offshore event, so all associated controls – prevention, control and mitigation - must be suitably managed using an integrated SEMS, and also regulated using an integrated approach.

In this respect the ‘virtual competent authority’ approach created by UK government appears inconsistent with ‘enforcing authority global best practices’ (e.g. as in Norway, Australia, USA), which was the preferred option in almost all consultee responses on the draft regulations, including from IOSH. However, our informal regulator contacts assure us that the newly developed competent authority safety case assessment and audit processes will work seamlessly, enabling the very challenging submission and acceptance targets for the transition period between current and new-style submissions to be achieved.

Ian Waldram, CEng, CFIOSH