| Written by Vidar Borgen
With a long history and tradition in travelling the rough sea and also extreme weather conditions under their belts, Norwegians have excelled in learning how to stay safe. This is one of the reasons, why today Norway is a highly respected and leading nation in regards of Health Safety and Environment (HSE) technology for offshore applications.
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Norway's HSE offshore regulations are often seen as one of the most comprehensive and stringent frameworks anywhere in the world. Whether you're a business operating an oil and gas facility or simply researching these regulations, understanding Norway's HSE standards is essential.
This introductory guide will walk you through the regulations and requirements for working in Norway's offshore environment, from introducing the system to understanding the general requirements, environmental standards, workplace safety, personnel qualifications and training, hazardous substances regulations, incident reporting and investigation procedures, and evaluation and improvement of the system.
Getting to these high HSE standards of today did not happen overnight. As often, serious incidents led to increased awareness of this topic.
Further reading: Offshore safety equipment
Norway is one of the world's leading offshore oil and gas producers and therefore has developed HSE Offshore regulations to protect the environment, prevent injury and protect human life in its offshore facilities. HSE stands for Health, Safety, and Environment. The framework of Norwegian HSE Offshore regulations is divided into various laws, rules and codes, issued to ensure that all personnel and operations in the offshore environment are safe and secure.
The following list provides a comprehensive overview of the different regulations that Norway has in place to ensure the safety of offshore facilities. It is important to understand that regulations may vary from one facility to the next, depending on the type of activities being conducted within them. Moreover, some regulations are applicable to all offshore operations regardless of location, and others are specific to certain areas.
The most important laws, regulations, and codes that govern the Norwegian offshore environment are described in detail in this article. These include international and national laws:
The Regulations for the Protection of People, Property and the Environment in Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Operations are the most comprehensive and overarching of all the regulations. This regulation includes requirements in areas such as personnel qualifications and operational conditions in drilling, as well as environmental protection, reduction of risk, and emergency preparedness.
The Offshore Safety Act is the main piece of legislation that governs the safety of offshore operations. This Regulation sets out minimum requirements for the use of personnel, vessels, and equipment, including the use of fire prevention and safety equipment.
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) sets out standards for the working conditions for seafarers in the maritime industry. These standards include wages, hours of work, and rest periods, as well as protection for seafarers against discrimination and harassment.
The Health and Safety at Work (Offshore Installations) Convention is an international convention that provides a framework for protecting offshore workers. This convention sets out standards for safe working conditions, rest periods, medical care, and training.
The Safety in Offshore Drilling and Production Regulations set out the minimum safety requirements for offshore operations, including the use of safety equipment, safety drills, and emergency procedures.
The Health Protection during Offshore Drilling and Production Regulations set standards for protecting personnel against the risks of radiation and contamination. These regulations also require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for personnel working in hazardous areas.
The Offshore Petroleum Activities Regulations set out standards for environmental protection in offshore operations. These regulations include requirements for the prevention of oil and gas pollution and the management of hazardous substances and waste.
The most comprehensive overview about Norwegian legislation related to offshore work can be found here.
In 1978, the government launched an extensive rig safety programme after an incident on the Ekofisk complex the year before. Despite the new government initiative, Norway experienced its worst industrial disaster in 1980 when the Alexander Kielland accommodation rig capsized.
On the evening of March 27th, 1980, a semi-submersible platform called Alexander L Kielland was providing accommodation to 212 workers, of whom 123 died when the platform capsized due to strong winds and waves up to 12 meters high. The platform was linked to the Edda 2/7C drilling platform extracting on the Ekofisk field in the North Sea. Evacuation efforts were hampered due to the design of the platform's lifeboats, and the platform was eventually stabilised by a single remaining cable which ultimately snapped, causing it to roll over.
The inquiry argued that there had been “inadequate safety training and exercises, and lack of life-saving equipment.”
The UK Continental Shelf “Piper Alpha” explosion in 1988, causing the deaths of 167 crew members, was another offshore disaster that heavily impacted today’s North Sea HSE regulations. According to the accident report, a significant takeaway was the “lack of control and coordination”, including “inadequate follow-up and checking of personnel work permits in the years ahead of the accident.”
The offshore oil and gas industry is, in a historical sense, still young. Unquestionably working in such extreme environments, with harsh weather conditions, huge mechanical equipment and exposure to dangerous gases and liquids, carries a lot of risks.
It is evident that many of the more significant regulatory changes have been shaped by and have come as a result of serious incidents and not solely by preventative thinking. However, these incidents raised the bar for HSE standards and increased awareness of the importance of these topics.
As a leading provider of wireless solutions guaranteeing visibility to improve efficiency, safety as well as security in challenging industrial operating environments, we spent a lot of time developing a highly scalable offshore emergency response solution – Crew Companion – for exactly these purposes (e.g. emergency mustering).
The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority lists emergency preparedness as one part of the regulations. §20 ("Coordination of offshore emergency preparedness") asks for the following:
The operator shall ensure that emergency preparedness is coordinated when more than one facility or vessel are used simultaneously.
The operator's emergency preparedness measures shall be designed for coordination with public emergency preparedness resources.
The operator shall lead and coordinate the use of emergency preparedness resources in the event of hazard and accident situations, until a public authority assumes this responsibility, if applicable.
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and the Norwegian Environment Agency can, within their respective jurisdictions, stipulate a requirement that standby vessels, including aircraft, shall be stationed at facilities or vessels participating in the petroleum activities. Requirements can be stipulated as regards the functions that a standby vessel shall be able to perform.
This makes emergency preparedness a mandatory requirement for all offshore operations in the oil & gas industry of Norway.
Norway's HSE Offshore Regulations are designed to ensure the health, safety and well-being of personnel working offshore. It is, therefore, essential for personnel working on offshore facilities to be thoroughly trained and qualified for the tasks they must undertake. This includes training in general safety procedures, risk assessment, emergency response, hazardous material operation and safety equipment operation and maintenance.
Personnel must have valid authorization to work in an offshore facility and must demonstrate that they have the relevant experience and skills for the assigned tasks. An offshore employer must ensure that the personnel are qualified and properly trained in the work that they are to undertake. Subsea personnel must be able to understand and apply the appropriate safe practices and procedures for their work, as well as have sufficient experience in the type of equipment and operations they are working with.
In addition to qualifications and training, personnel must meet certain medical standards as established by the Norwegian Health, Safety and Environment Authority. This includes medical examination and approval of personnel prior to assignment to any offshore facility, as well as ongoing medical evaluations to ensure that personnel remain fit and healthy to perform their assigned duties (learn more about wind energy safety jobs).
Norway's HSE Offshore Regulations also require employers to provide personnel with appropriate safety instructions. This includes instruction on the operational and environmental hazards, equipment and protective clothing, as well as the hazard assessment, detection and reporting of unsafe working conditions. Personnel must also be provided with regular training to ensure that they remain qualified and up-to-date with the latest safety guidelines and technology.
In summary, personnel qualification and training is key in ensuring the safety of personnel working on offshore facilities in Norway. Employers must ensure that personnel are properly qualified and trained, and must provide appropriate safety training and instruction to ensure that personnel are aware of the hazards they may face while working offshore.
Interested in better evacuation procedures? Learn more about how to improve your emergency response training!
- What is an emergency preparedness offshore plan?
An emergency preparedness offshore plan is a plan that outlines how a business or organization should respond to an offshore emergency situation. This plan should include information on evacuation plans, emergency response protocols, and safety protocols.
- What are the steps involved in developing an emergency preparedness offshore plan?
The steps involved in developing an emergency preparedness plan offshore include developing an offshore safety policy, identifying hazards and risks, outlining evacuation plans and procedures, and creating a response protocol.
- How can I ensure my employees are prepared for an offshore emergency?
In order to ensure that your employees are prepared for an offshore emergency, it is important to provide them with training and drills on the emergency plan. Additionally, it is important to ensure that all employees have access to the necessary safety equipment and supplies.
Norway’s HSE offshore regulations are some of the most stringent in the world. All businesses and individuals operating in the Norwegian offshore sector must adhere to these regulations to ensure the highest standards of safety and environmental protection. The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (PTIL) is the organization responsible for enforcing HSE offshore regulations, and companies can be fined or have their operations suspended if they do not comply.
The safety of workers and the environment is of utmost importance in the offshore industry, and the HSE regulations are designed to ensure that all activities in the sector are conducted in a safe and responsible manner. Companies must be able to show evidence of compliance with the HSE regulations, including training and controls. Additionally, they must continually assess and monitor their operations and report any incidents, near miss events, and other hazards.
Continue reading about Emergency Response Management here...
This page was updated on March 16, 2023