News Brief: National Research Council, Including Carnegie Mellon's Paul Fischbeck, Says Offshore Drilling and Production Companies Must Focus on "Culture of Safety"-Carnegie Mellon News - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

News Brief: National Research Council, Including Carnegie Mellon's Paul Fischbeck, Says Offshore Drilling and Production Companies Must Focus on "Culture of Safety"

Contacts: Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 / shilo@cmu.edu
Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 / swaney@andrew.cmu.edu

Paul FischbeckTo ensure the effectiveness of recently mandated Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) programs for offshore drilling and production operations, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) should take a holistic approach that modifies some of its existing practices, says a new report from the National Research Council. These should include inspections, operator audits, bureau audits, key performance indicators, and a "whistleblower" program. The report emphasizes using cooperation and consultation to further develop a culture of safety. 
 
These recommendations are consistent with the bureau's proposed changes to SEMS with the exception of one change to require that audits be performed by third parties. The Research Council report stresses that a truly independent internal audit team is preferred to an external third-party team to avoid the development of a "compliance mentality." Audits should be carried out by the operator's internal qualified, independent team whenever possible. BSEE, however, should approve all audit plans and receive a copy of each audit and follow-up report.

"The old way of doing things with just checklist inspections may be thought of as an easy way of measuring safety regulations, but they are simply not effective," said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. "We have to get people to think about safety and work to change the culture within these organizations. Companies are going to need to take risks to be more safe."

Since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and explosion, the federal government as well as the offshore oil and gas industry have been undergoing major changes, including the issuance of regulations that required operators of offshore facilities to adopt and implement comprehensive SEMS programs by Nov. 15, 2011. These systems are intended to shift from an entirely prescriptive approach to a proactive risk-based, goal-oriented regulatory approach to improve safety and reduce the likelihood of similar events recurring. The committee for this study was charged with recommending a method of assessing the effectiveness of operators' SEMS programs on any offshore drilling or production facility.

For more information, visit http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=13434.

Carnegie Mellon's Paul Fischbeck (pictured above) says checklist safety inspections are not effective for offshore drilling and production operations. "We have to get people to think about safety and work to change the culture within these organizations. Companies are going to need to take risks to be more safe," he says.