High Cost of Operating Procedure Problems Offshore

Operating procedures are a key part of the offshore oil and gas Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) Rules.  If you think of SEMS as a true system, with interlocking parts, operating procedures are the glue that holds the parts together.  It is where:

  1. Hazards analysis is applied to the actual scope of work,
  2. Specific skills, knowledge, training and safe work practices can be identified and applied, and
  3. Mechanical integrity has real world meaning (is the equipment or tool fit for purpose, when used?).

Continue reading “High Cost of Operating Procedure Problems Offshore”

Forget What Your Safety Manual Says About Injury Management – What Does OSHA Say?

A lot of companies have a safety manual that they bought from a service or maybe it was written by some previous safety manager and tends to be updated only when things change.   Over time, we tend to accept our written policies and procedures without looking at what they are supposed to accomplish.   Managing workplace injuries is one of those areas.  So just to take a fresh look at the issue, let’s go back to what the OSHA regulations actually say about managing injuries.  It is found in the  Medical Services and First Aid Standard (29 CFR 1910.151).  It is very simple and very clear:

1910.151(a)  The employer shall ensure the ready availability of medical personnel for advice and consultation on matters of plant health.

1910.151(b) In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.

Continue reading “Forget What Your Safety Manual Says About Injury Management – What Does OSHA Say?”

Video for Safety Meeting: Burrito Causes Bus Crash

Need to “drive” home the point about distracted driving at your next safety meeting?   How about this video.  A bus driver in Albuquerque trying to navigate the streets and a burrito at the same time.  It turns out he can’t do both.  Thanks to the always informative and always interesting website Safety News Alert for this:

And while we are at it, here is a Russian bus driver who discovered the dangers of sleep deprivation on the job:


5 Steps to Effective Injury Management – Blog Post From ASSE

Let me share with you a blog that I provided to the American Society of Safety Engineers on some best practices to consider as you set up an injury management program.  You can find the full post here.

I am a strong believer that safety departments do a much better job on the prevention side than in reducing the extent of injuries after they happen.  What many don’t fully understand is that there is a cost to injuries, but a failure to address the injury properly after it happens can make that cost skyrocket. Continue reading “5 Steps to Effective Injury Management – Blog Post From ASSE”

New Safety Video Aimed At Bullet-Proof Fishermen

We all have that friend who loves to fish but is a menace to himself and everyone else when he gets anywhere near a boat.   Do him a favor – Sit him down and make him watch this video!

It comes from Maritime NZ, which promote safe recreational and commercial boating in New Zealand.  The New Zealanders take their fish and their humor seriously!  This video makes the point that no one is bullet-proof when they get out on the water in a way that is very funny and very effective.   It is the first of three safety videos the agency is releasing.  Enjoy it and remember – never get caught with your pants down when you are fishing!

WIN AN EPIC $1,500 PRIZE PACK. What should you always wear when you're on the water? Watch the Big Angry Fish boys in the video and comment to win. The most creative correct answer wins the pack. You can only enter once per video. Entries close: 10 February. T&Cs apply: http://bit.ly/2jiHHoQ

Posted by Safer Boating NZ on Thursday, January 19, 2017

What The Boss Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Him….And His Company

Google the phrase “Safety starts at the top” and you will get more than 6,000 results.  We automatically accept that the CEO sets the tone on safety in a company.
What if the people at the top don’t know the true state of safety in their organizations?   DNV GL just released a study that makes that point crystal clear.   The report, SHORT-TERM AGILITY, LONG-TERM RESILIENCE, looks at a lot of issues facing the oil and gas industry as it attempts to recover, including the impact of intense cost cutting on overall safety.    DNV GL’s survey of executives found that more than half expect to continue to lay off workers in 2017 and one-third expect to reduce spending on training and competency systems. Only a handful expect to increase spending on health, safety, and environmental programs.
Here’s the most interesting part of the DNV GL study – They asked different levels within organizations whether cost-cutting initiatives were increasing health and safety risk.
Only one-in-10 of the executives thought cutbacks in the company had increased safety risks.  However, roughly one-in-four of the people who were closest to the ground – either business unit heads of non-managers – thought there was increased risk.
What does this mean?   There are a couple of scenarios.  Both spell trouble:
Scenario One:  The heads of units and rank-and-file workers overestimate the risk.  That is natural. Good unit and line managers worry about risk a lot because they are directly responsible for controlling it. Cuts came to programs they were directly involved in, so they felt them directly.  Let’s also accept that some safety programs may not have been all that effective in the first place and cutting them doesn’t materially impact risk.  The danger here is that, if unit managers and people in the field overestimate risk, the top executives have failed to communicate why and how their companies are going to run lean without sacrificing safety.
Scenario Two: Oil patch execs don’t have a true feel for the safety risks in the field.  The danger there is even greater, because the people who run the companies may not have enough visibility on their exposure to accidents, injuries and losses.   Either way, it could spell trouble.
Part of the problem is that top execs usually look at programs (budgets for safety may not have been cut as much as other parts of the company), stats (usually recordable injuries and time away from work, which should be lower if there is less work and you aren’t hiring inexperienced employees).   As the study points out, part of the problem is:
the distance between the boardroom of the budget-setters and the risks in the field. Senior management often have good sight of formal indicators (such as lost-time injuries or days away from work) but can sometimes be too far from operations to see things like corroding steel,failing pipework, structural problems or workforce overload.
However, we are now three years into a serious downturn.  Maintenance and replacements have been deferred.  A lot of the tools that give executives objective visibility into field conditions, like audits and inspections, have been reduced, if not cut.  If the company relies on contractors, survival has meant requiring those contractors to make their own deep cuts, forcing them to figure out how to make ends meet.
The disconnect on safety perception between the C-suite and the people who are closest to the work is not unique to this downturn or even oil and gas.  It shows up frequently in surveys of every industry.   A 2010 survey of company culture on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Australia asked people throughout company structures
about their safety programs.   About 85% of the Owners and CEO’s said they agreed or strongly  agreed that “Top level management demonstrates a commitment to OHS.”   Down at the field or specialist level, that number fell to less than 60%.
Some of this has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the way information is shared in organizations.  There is a popular pyramid graph that shows how much bad news is actually shared within an organization.  The message is that only about four percent of the problems experienced in the field actually make it to the CEO’s desk.   The warning is that no one wants to bring the boss bad news.
As oil and gas recovers, companies put more crews in the field, new people get hired and equipment utilization goes up.  The potential for incidents related to equipment failures, over-work or lack of training goes up the way too much pressure can find a weak spot in a balloon.
CEOs and their executive teams need to be actively engaged in identifying risk and addressing weaknesses.  Unit managers need to be honest about what they are seeing in the field.   Above all, CEOs need to invest in communicating with every level of their organizations so they have a true picture of their exposure and ensuring that no one is afraid to bring bad news to their doors.

Five Reasons To Get Serious About Operating Procedures

We are launching a new class on operating procedures.  The objectives of the class are to show people how to write procedures that:

  • Comply with government regulations requiring operating procedures.
  • Are effective, easy-to-understand and can be used in the field.
  • Follow recommended practices to standardize and manage procedures within an organization.

Access class description here: Operating procedures class one-page description

Why offer an operating procedures class now?

Here are five reasons:

  1. Compliance: SEMS Regulations for offshore oil and gas require procedures and poor procedures (or no procedures) can result in fines or orders to shut down operations.  OSHA’s PSM regulations also require written procedures, as do PHMSA pipeline regulations.
  2. Audits: Auditors have identified poorly written or incomplete operating procedures as one of the top noncompliance issues, if not the top issue.
  3. Safety: Good operating procedures are the pathway to safe operations.   They allow you to identify safety hazards early and control them in the design phase.  In the field, they give you a way to align Job Safety Analysis, Personal Protective Equipment and safe practices with the actual operations crews are performing.
  4. Competency & Training: The right procedures help onboarding new employees, pinpoint training needs and make it easy to determine whether personnel have the skills and knowledge to perform their duties.
  5. Investigations and Lawsuits:  The right procedures give you a legal defense if an accident occurs and the wrong procedures (or, worse still, no procedures) may leave you vulnerable in a lawsuit or government investigation.

We are in the process of finalizing our operating procedures class.  The goal is to make it available to people who:

  • Write procedures
  • Manage or oversee procedures in their organization
  • Audit or regulate procedures

The initial classes will be offered at a discount.   If you are interested in holding a class at your office or being contacted when we have classes scheduled, contact us at info@lifelinestrategies.com or by calling (985) 789-0577.

Courts: BSEE Can’t Charge Contractors Under Offshore Safety Rules

A Federal District Court says the Federal government does not have the authority to cite and fine service companies under the offshore safety and environmental rules.  If the ruling stands, it would be a blow to one of the most aggressive enforcement interpretations that followed the Macondo disaster.

Late last month, in the case of Island Operating Co Inc v. Jewell et al, Judge Rebecca Doherty ruled that the government does not have the legal authority to cite drillers, services companies and other contractors under its offshore oil and gas safety regulations.

As background, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) investigates offshore safety or environmental incidents.  If a violation is found, BSEE would write a Notice of Incident of Noncompliance (“INC”) against the operator of lease-holder of the offshore property.   The regulations allow BSEE to shut down the project until the violation is corrected and to fine the violator up to $42, 017 per infraction per day.

Until Macondo occurred, BSEE only cited operators or leaseholders, even if a contractor was to blame.  For example, if a welding company caused a fire offshore,  the operator would be cited (INC’d, in offshore terminology).  However, following the Macondo disaster, the government issued INCs to Transocean and Halliburton, as well as citing BP.  BSEE followed-up with an interim policy document stating that it had the authority to INC the lease-holder/permit-holder as well as “the person actually performing the work.”  

Ever since then, BSEE has cited a number contractors for violations, despite questions over whether the agency had the authority to make those determinations.   One of those cases went before an administrative law judge in 2015 and the ALJ supported BSEE’s position.

However, Judge Doherty’s decision reverses that ruling and says very clearly that BSEE overstepped its authority in trying to penalize the contractor in the case.  You can read a very good analysis of the case done by the HaynesBoone law firm here.

What happens now?   

The judge was very careful to limit the results of the ruling to this one case.  She did not order BSEE to cease INC’ing contractors altogether.   However, this case will carry a lot of weight and encourage challenges from any other contractors who were cited under the ruling.

HaynesBoone says the government is likely to appeal the ruling.   I think that remains to be seen and depends on the new administration and the direction that the Interior Department takes.   Under the laws, the U.S. Solicitor General decides what the government wants to appeal and the new administration will name the Solicitor General.   This may be the type of “regulatory overreach” Donald Trump has railed against.

The whole issue highlights a problem that is unique to offshore.  On land, if a contractor in the oil patch breaks safety regulations, OSHA will penalize it.   If the same company does the same thing offshore, there may not be any way to hold it responsible.  Some experts who say BSEE handled this interpretation wrong still say there should be some way to hold unsafe contractors accountable.

One option is for BSEE to not appeal the current ruling, but to go back and develop new regulations to address the responsibility of contractors.  That would allow for public comment and a way to ensure that the government’s approach is consistent.  However, the new administration has said it wants fewer, not more, rules, so addressing this issue with new regulations may also be unlikely.

Courts (And The Trump Administration) May Decide If Your Injury Reporting Will Be Made Public

Last year, OSHA pushed through one of the most dramatic changes in how companies track injuries and illnesses at work.   The new injury reporting regulations required many companies to provide their annual injury and illness information electronically.  Much of it would be posted online for the public to see.  The rule also prohibited companies from discouraging reporting or punishing employees who do report injuries.

The changes went fully into effect at the start of this month, although OSHA still does not have the electronic submission system up and running yet. Industry has been very concerned about the potential for injury information to be visible to customers, competitors, unions or public opponants, as well being confused by the vague languge covering the ban on discouraging reporting.

Taking It To The Courts
Now a coalition of businesses that includes everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Turkey Federation has sued to stop the change from being enforced.   That case was filed in the federal court for the  Western Oklahoma District.  An earlier lawsuit is also moving in the federal court for Northern Texas.  That one includes the National Asssociation of Manufacturers.

The latest lawsuit challenges the rule, in part, because the plaintiffs say OSHA may be able to collect injury data, but it does not have legal authority to share it with the public.   It will be up to the court, based on the evidence, to decide whether that is the case or whether OSHA does have the authority.  However, one reaons the industry groups chose the Western Oklahoma is because it has a reputation for being conservative and employer-friendly.

The Trump Administration May Have An Impact on The Case

This is one case where the timing of the rule, the lawsuit and the election may help employers.   It is possible that the new administration may intervene to support the industry lawsuits.   In that case, the weight of arguing that the rule should stay in place could fall on some third party, such as unions.  A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO is quoted as saying that organized labor is reviewing the case now.

The biggest impact will come if the courts side with employers and say that OSHA does not have the authority to impose the rule.  The U.S. Solicitor General, who will be a Trump appointee, will decide whether the U.S. government appeals the case.  If there is no appeal, it usually means that the decision stands.  In this case it would mean that the rule would be tossed out.

So there is a lot riding on the two cases.  Employers should be ready to comply, but they should also keep up with the latest twists and turns as the lawsuits progress.

What The Rule Says

Under the change, establishments with 250 or more employees are requried to submit the following forms electronically :

  • 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses),
  • 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and
  • 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report).

Much of that information would be available online for the public to see, minus names and other privacy-related information.  Certain smaller companies would just need to report their 300A summary online.    The rule also contained confusing language prohibiting companies from discouraging reporting, including a ban on certain post-injury drug testing.

OSHA’s webpage, with information on compliance, can be found here.