The nation's offshore drilling safety regulator has unveiled a draft safety culture policy statement that calls on oil and gas drillers to "emphasize safety over all other competing goals."
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director James Watson said Wednesday the policy creates no new regulations and is intended primarily to inform offshore operators and contractors of the government's safety expectations. "From the boardroom to the control room, this policy pushes us all to a safer offshore environment," Watson said.
The nine-point policy is open for public comment through March 20. It comes as BSEE is considering an update to its Safety and Environmental Management Systems rule, which regulates offshore platform safety and operating procedures.
The policy was developed partly in response to the recommendations of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The commission said systemic failures by BP, Transocean and Halliburton in the disaster called into question the industry's safety commitment.
BSEE noted that all of the official reviews of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking called for a strengthening of offshore safety culture.
The policy calls on industry leaders to demonstrate a commitment to safety in all actions, to seek out and promptly resolve safety issues and to create conditions where individuals can raise concerns without fear of retribution, among other steps.
Industry reaction was relatively muted, but nonetheless indicated concern that the policy would overshadow safety improvements already being done by the private sector.
Erik Milito, upstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, did not address the policy directly, but said the oil and gas industry will continue to work with BSEE and the broader federal government on continued safety improvements.
He noted API created its Center for Offshore Safety as suggested by the BP spill commission, and said it is part of the industry's actions to put workplace safety at the top of its priorities.
"This program relies on independent, third-party auditing and verification, and we value the ability to work with government agencies and other industry stakeholders to enhance industry safety and environmental performance," he said.
Jim Noe, executive vice president of Hercules Offshore and executive director of the Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition, said the industry has been a leader in safety, even before the Deepwater Horizon sinking. He added that his company has always empowered workers to stop platform operations if they see a safety problem and held them accountable if they ignored an issue.
"We support BSEE’s continuing efforts to ensure that the offshore industry maintains the highest level of commitment to safety. But the industry hasn’t been waiting around for a policy document to build a strong safety culture," Noe said.
The draft policy can be seen here.