The offshore industry consistently maintains that cost cutting is done without increasing major accident risk. But there are more and more signs that this is not at all the case.
The last few months has seen two fatal accidents in the Norwegian sector, one occupational accident on COSL Innovator in December and one major helicopter accident with 13 fatalities in April. 2015 also had more hydrocarbon leaks, especially those above 1 kg/s, than the previous years. More than half of the leaks are still associated with manual work on normally pressurized systems. Also other RNNP indicators were negative.
There are also other indications. There have been claims recently that the subcontractors and suppliers are forced to accept contracts that do not even cover operating costs. Who thinks that subcontractor personnel then will work with high focus on major accident prevention, more so than concentrate on cost minimization and ‘corner cutting’?
This is parallel with the arguments put forward by Haugen and colleagues about maintaining helicopter safety when there are no absolute criteria and the framework conditions are changed ( cronicle). The importance of framework conditions can be most explicitly demonstrated when offshore and onshore helicopter transport are compared, but similar mechanisms are assumed to apply in many other circumstances, not the least in association with hydrocarbon leaks with operational causation.
During construction projects in the far East, there have been several fatal occupational accidents during the last few years, in ENI and Statoil projects, to an extent not seen in construction projects for several decades. This is yet another indication of a trend in the wrong direction.
When you couple this with authorities who more and more appear to be impotent, this does not give good expectations for major accident prevention in the future.
If this is not enough, it can also be coupled with complete dry out of research funding for health, environment and safety from the Norwegian Research Council for the last couple of years. At the same time, the industry has a more and more short term view of research (or are negative to), as argued by several researchers ( NTNU and IRIS).
We are afraid of the long term consequences!