New offshore safety regulations in UK come into effect

BP's Andrew Platform in the North Sea (For illustration purposes)
BP’s Andrew Platform in the North Sea (For illustration purposes)

The Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive) (Safety Case etc.) Regulations 2015 (SCR 2015) came into force on July 19, 2015. They are the UK’s response to the EU’s Offshore Directive which was adopted in June 2013. 

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published a new guide to help offshore oil and gas operators to adhere to the regulatory requirements introduced by SCR 2015.

HSE explained that the document provides an explanation of the regulatory provisions in SCR 2015 and is addressed to those with duties, such as licensees, installation operators, installation owners, well operators and others involved with offshore activities.

SRC 2015 applies to oil and gas operations in external waters, that is, the territorial sea adjacent to Great Britain and any designated area within the United Kingdom continental shelf (UKCS). They replace the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 2005 (SCR 2005) in these waters, subject to certain transitional arrangements.

The primary aim of SCR 2015 is to reduce the risks from major accident hazards to the health and safety of the workforce employed on offshore installations or in connected activities. Furthermore, the Regulations also aim to increase the protection of the marine environment and coastal economies against pollution and ensure improved response mechanisms in the event of such an incident.

Offshore Safety Directive Regulator

The Directive also required the creation of an offshore competent authority and the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and HSE, working in partnership, have established the Offshore Safety Directive Regulator (OSDR). The competent authority is governed by a senior oversight board which will agree implementation arrangements, set the strategic direction and agree decisions for the competent authority.

Requirements to submit safety cases

According to the HSE, a safety case is a document that gives confidence to operators, owners, workers and the competent authority that the dutyholder has the ability and means to manage and control major accident hazards effectively.

Safety cases under SCR 2015 are required for all installations operating, or to be operated, in external waters. It is an offence to operate an installation in external waters without a safety case that has been accepted by the competent authority.

Different requirements apply to installations used for producing oil and gas compared to those used for other purposes, such as drilling, exploration or providing accommodation. For new production installations to be established offshore, operators must send a notification to the competent authority at the early design stage.

Once given, the competent authority’s acceptance of a safety case may last as long as the installation to which it applies.

No safety cases for offshore pipelines

SCR 2015 does not require safety cases for offshore pipelines. However, the Regulations do require the installation safety case to address all risks arising from pipelines connected to the installation and any other pipelines with the potential to cause a major accident on the installation.

New regulations to protect workers and environment

According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), a body for individuals with a professional involvement in occupational safety and health, revised offshore safety case regulations in the UK will help to safeguard both workers and the environment.

Allison Laws, Chair of the Offshore Group at IOSH, said: “The new regulations will help to protect thousands of workers in the offshore industry.

“It is vital that all operators follow the regulations and they will feel the benefits of doing so. After all, safety and health is an investment, not a cost.”

Ian Waldram, a member of the IOSH Offshore Group committee, said it was important operators familiarise themselves with the changes.

He said: “Whilst the agreed intention was to minimise changes to the 2005 UK legislation, judged by many as a ‘best in class’ regulatory regime, there are in fact a significant number of changes – some small, others more significant.”

Offshore Energy Today Staff