Offshore Safety Case Regs 2015

9 April 2015

These new Regulations, required to ensure compliance with the EU Offshore Directive, were laid before Parliament on 23 March and come into force on 19 July 2015, though there are transitional arrangements for installations with existing Safety Cases such that not all need to be revised and resubmitted by that date.

The underpinning principle is that both safety and environmental impacts of major hydrocarbon releases, including blowouts, must be managed by duty holders and regulated by HSE and DECC holistically, rather than separately as in the past. Thus safety critical elements (SCEs) become safety and environment-critical elements (SECMs), the oil pollution emergency plan (OPEP) is part of the overall ERP rather than being a standalone document, etc. and is assessed on that basis. HSE and DECC have jointly developed management processes for assessing Safety Cases once submitted, i.e. a ‘virtual organisation’ (OSDR) rather than the transfer of some DECC staff that was the preferred option for ~80% of those responding to the consultative document (IOSH among them).

The website for the Offshore Safety Directive Regulator (OSDR) provides helpful summaries of the timetables, industry presentations and linked guidance – so far available only for preparing OPEPs.

However, anyone who believes that only safety case compilers and assessors are affected by the changes needs a reality check. There are several subtle changes in the roles and responsibilities for verification schemes, a new category of ‘dangerous occurrences’ have to be reported (Reg 29 – the Guidance for this will be critical, but nothing is yet available) and UK-based international operators may also have to report details of major accidents that occur outside the EU (Reg 34). There’s also a requirement for every duty holder to be involved in processes for developing standards and guidance (Reg 32 and Schedule 11 – the wording is copied from the Offshore Directive) – a fine ideal, but how and whether it can be enforced remains to be seen.

Ian Waldram, CFIOSH