IRF Summit: Companies Must Work on Improving Safety Culture (Norway)

  • Business & Finance

Safety culture was on the agenda for the second day of the International Regulators’ Forum offshore safety summit in Stavanger. This has been a key issue for the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) over the past 10 years.

Norway’s regulations require the building of a safety culture, and this is followed up through audits and surveys in the national petroleum industry.

During the second day , recommendations on this issue were given by Dr Mark Fleming from the department of psychology at St Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada.

He addressed his remarks to the industry on behalf of the Canadian members of the IRF, who have been assigned the job of exploring the subject.


Dr Fleming’s work aims primarily at providing legislators with documented information on the underlying theory and content of the concept, on regulatory methods and on the relationship between safety culture and management.

The safety culture in a company and the management’s role in relation to it have been emphasised by investigations into the industry disasters of recent years.

In that context, Dr Fleming underlined the importance of legislators developing a shared understanding of the content of a good safety culture.

He urged them to develop a common terminology as well as shared methods and guidelines for self-assessments in the petroleum industry.

In addition, he highlighted the importance of governments sharing experience, tools and strategies for continuous improvement of the industry’s safety culture.


“We’ve had safety culture on the agenda here for almost a decade,” observed Magne Ognedal, director general of the PSA and a long-standing participant in international regulatory collaboration.

“I’m accordingly pleased that we‘ve now acquired a collective basis in the IRF for sharing experience in this area.”

Requirements for a good health, safety and environmental culture have been enshrined in the HSE regulations for Norway’s petroleum sector since 2001, he noted.

“We reformulated these demands in 2011 in order to emphasise the key role played by senior management in promoting a good HSE culture.”

Management’s responsibility for and contribution to reducing major accident risk have been a priority area for the PSA over several years.

“Priorities set by the leadership are crucial for the way companies handle the risk of major accidents and their overall work on safety and working environment risk – in other words, their safety culture,” said Mr Ognedal.

“The PSA has accordingly pursued supervisory activities focused on top management in a number of petroleum-sector companies.

“That’s been based on dialogue as well as on self-assessments and reflections by senior executives concerning risk management in their organisation.”

He pointed to the effect of sharing, processing and analysing lessons learnt and experience gained from disasters such as Macondo and Montara on a broad basis.

“This will make an important contribution to improving the management of risk in each company’s own operation and to the safety culture throughout the industry.

“So it’s positive that the good work being pursued by Dr Fleming and the Canadian authorities in this area has been shared with us here today.”


A survey is conducted every other year as part of the trends in risk level in the petroleum activity (RNNP) process which has been a key PSA commitment for the past 10-12 years.

Questionnaires are circulated to employees in the Norwegian petroleum sector, both offshore and on land, to measure how the rank-and-file experience HSE conditions.

“This provides us with a documented description of what we can call the industry’s safety culture,” Mr Ognedal explained.


Employee participation and a “tripartite” collaboration between companies, unions and government have long traditions in Scandinavia and in Norway’s petroleum sector, he added.

“I’d maintain that a binding and well-functioning collaboration of this kind is essential for securing the necessary commitment in the industry to reducing major accident risk.

Cooperation and participation commit everyone involved, and contribute to a shared understanding of reality – or risk – and thereby to a better safety culture.”

Source:Ptil , October 5, 2011

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