For those who haven’t seen Raiders of Lost the Lost Ark (1981) (and I can’t think of a good reason why anyone hasn’t) be warned … there are some spoilers below. In this modern classic, Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S Government in a race against time to find the Ark of the Covenant before the bad guys. The Ark is a priceless artefact which, when opened, has disastrous consequences for some individuals. Ultimately in the closing sequence it is placed in storage, gathering dust and never to be opened again.
There are parallels to be drawn between the Ark and Oil and Gas industry Offshore Safety Cases. During major projects and ahead of inspections, Safety Cases can be centre stage, with serious consequences when opened by the regulator if information contained within is found to be inaccurate. They can also, in some cases, sit for prolonged periods on the shelf in the Offshore Installation Manager’s (OIM’s) office offshore, gathering dust.
The Safety Case is regarded by many as the critical document in securing a licence to operate by the offshore regulator. The requirement for a Safety Case was born out of the Piper Alpha Disaster in 1988 when 176 people were killed, over 10% of North Sea production halted and the damage ran into billions of dollars.
The enquiry into the disaster led by Lord Cullen, a former judge, made 106 recommendations, the first of which was that all Offshore Installations in UK waters were required to present their case for safety much like a legal representation to a court. This was the start of the Safety Case as we know it today. In 1992, The Safety Case Regulations were brought into law aimed at reducing the risks from major accidents offshore.
The Safety Case Regulations were refreshed in 2005 and then again in 2015 in the wake of the BP Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico. The regulations themselves are goal-setting and their 164-page guidance document describes the information to be contained within the cases, the situations where notifications are required to the regulator as well as information on exemptions, penalties and appeals.
Within a Safety Case you’ll find a detailed description of the installation, details of the duty holder’s Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS), a list of all the Major Accident Hazards that are present, a risk assessment, the arrangements for emergency response and a summary of how the workforce has been involved in the Safety Case development. Once a duty holder has an accepted Safety Case it must be kept up to date.
Thankfully, the Offshore Safety Case has a far happier ending then Raiders of the Lost Ark. A lot of good work goes into preparing them and, if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to read yours. Yes, it may contain some information that is there simply to satisfy the regulator but you will likely learn a lot more about the major accidents present on your installation, how they’re managed, the safeguards in place to prevent them and mitigate their consequences as well as the arrangements in place in an emergency. No one needs to be a hero with a proper Safety Case in place.
A list of UK Offshore health and safety law, with accompanying guidance, can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/law.htm