As The First Round of SEMS Audits Winds Up, Questions About What The Next Round Brings

Offshore operators have, by and large, finished their first round of SEMS audits.   There will be lessons learned and adjustments to be made but the big question is:  What will BSEE expect from the next round of audits?  This round tended to focus on audits of operator management systems, rather than compliance or performance (meaning whether the operator’s SEMS was in place, rather than whether every piece of the plan was being met).

However, that may change.   Some months ago, Chuck Simpson, owner of WorkSafe International and one of the more respected auditors in the Gulf, pointed out to me that the new SEMS II revision adds some new language on the audit requirements.  It says audits “must also identify safety and environmental performance deficiencies.”

From an audit standpoint that could be a huge change, potentially requiring extensive on-scene physical audits and evaluations of contractor records.    While no one argues that the goal of SEMS is to control the potential for safety and environmental incidents, audits of safety management systems tend to focus on the systems level.   How a company addresses incidents and near misses is usually viewed as a process at the systems level.  In other words, if something goes wrong, does the company adapt its system to prevent the problem from happening again?

The Center for Offshore Safety’s (COS) Program Manager for Audit Accreditation, Om Chawla, spoke at the Offshore Safety and Workforce Capability Assurance Conference this week and I had a chance to ask him about the change.   He said COS is very aware of it, is concerned that it changes the focus of the audit process and is in dialogue with BSEE to see what the agency really intends.

Wait and see.


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