SEMS II: What The Heck Does This Mean?

Interpreting a new regulation can be like putting together the pieces of a big interlocking jigsaw puzzle.  The challenge is in figuring out how one section connects with another.  the challenge.

But sometimes there are a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle missing.  Which brings me to SEMS II. SEMS II adds a number of new requirements to the existing rules, but you have to figure out how they relate to those other requirements to figure out how to meet SEMS II.

The case in point is the requirement that offshore personnel be trained in a new JSA process.  The regulation says:

“All personnel, which includes contractors, must be trained in accordance with the requirements of § 250.1915. You must also verify that contractors are trained in accordance with § 250.1915 prior to performing a job.”

One way to read that (and this is the way I read it at first) is that oil and gas companies need to make sure everyone who works under a JSA have to be trained in the process before they go offshore.   That would only make sense, since JSAsare critical part of hazard recognition and control.

But there is another way to read it (and this is the way I am starting to read it).  The JSA section refers to  Section § 250.1915.  That is the Training section of SEMS, which focuses on:

  • Training  – “…all personnel are trained in accordance with their duties and responsibilities to work safely and are aware of potential environmental impacts.”
  • Skill and knowledge“…ensure that  persons assigned to operate and  maintain the facility possess the required knowledge and  skills to carry  out their duties and responsibilities…”

If you really apply that section,operators would need to ensure that personnel are qualified to perform the tasks contained in the JSA.  Do you see the difference in the two interpretations?   Under one, an operator would need to verify that the worker was trained in the JSA process.  Under the other, the operator would need to verify that the worker could do his/her assigned tasks under the JSA.

The only thing they have in common is that either way, the operator needs to verify the training, skills or knowledge before the worker goes offshore, not after the job is done or through an audit.   That is why operators are pushing contractors so hard to assess their workers’ skill and knowledge.   (And why we teach those skills through our SEMSReady classes).

In talking about the need for things to be written clearly and correctly, Mark Twain said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Wonder what Twain would have said about SEMS II!

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