Chemical Safety Board public hearing on Macondo

Safety specialist advocates revised API 754 standard for reporting offshore safety indicators.

At a recent public hearing on process safety performance indicators, safety expert Andrew Hopkins of the Australian National University in Canberra observed that ‘there is a need for indicators specifically related to the risks of a blowout.’ His reasoning comes from a study of the Texas City disaster where he spotted a need for a focus on process as opposed to personal safety. Following Texas City, the API issued its Recommended Practice 754 on reporting indicators. Hopkins has revisited these in the light of offshore drilling. Current drilling reportable indicators include well kicks, flammable gas leaks, fires and explosions and other factors but not all gas releases. Neither does the US require well kicks to be reported. Both kick and release reporting is mandatory in Norway and Australia. A kick on the Deepwater Horizon, a month before the explosion, went unnoticed for over half an hour.

Ian Whewell, formerly of the offshore division of the UK Health and safety executive’s hazardous installations directorate has produced a ‘definitive guide’ to KPIs major hazard industries. KPIs won’t control major offshore risks on their own. Industry leaders at board and senior management levels must use the indicators and associated data to inform decision-making at all levels. The Texas City findings resulted in the introduction of two new KPIs—the backlog of safety critical maintenance and the current status of safety critical equipment. Elsewhere it was observed that oil and gas attaches too much importance to personal safety measures such as lost time injury frequency ‘despite their well-known weaknesses.’ More from the CSB.

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