BSEE Releases Improved Worplace Safety Rules for Offshore Oil & Gas Industry (USA)

As part of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) commitment to promoting offshore safety at all levels, at all times, Director Jim Watson yesterday announced another step in a series of efforts to further identify, address and manage operational safety hazards and impacts, with the goal of enhancing both human safety and environmental protection on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

This step is also in line with the Administration’s focus on expanding safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources, including increasing the safety of the men and women conducting the work.

“Offshore oil and gas safety starts with a robust positive safety culture, and BSEE’s workplace safety rules are designed to promote that culture by eliminating complacency and making sure that companies are looking at the human factors that underlie too many accidents,” said Director Watson. “This effort takes another important step towards protecting workers and the environment from preventable accidents.”

The Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) II final rule enhances the original SEMS rule, also known as the Workplace Safety Rule, which was issued in October 2010. It provides greater protection by supplementing operators’ SEMS programs with greater employee participation, empowering field level personnel with safety management decisions, and strengthening oversight by requiring audits to be conducted by accredited third-parties.

The Workplace Safety Rule became effective on November 15, 2010. Operators were required to implement a SEMS program by November 15, 2011 and must still submit their first completed SEMS audit to BSEE by November 15, 2013. The SEMS II final rule that was released yesterday becomes effective on (June 4, 2013) but does not affect an operator’s first audit cycle.

The SEMS II final rule is the latest step in an ongoing effort by BSEE to emphasize that the offshore industry must make safety their number one priority. Furthering this effort, BSEE released the Draft Safety Culture Policy Statement on December 20, 2012, to provide a common definition for everyone working offshore. The policy statement outlined BSEE’s approach to safety culture and was meant to inform the offshore community of BSEE’s safety expectations. The public comment period for the Draft Safety Culture Policy Statement closed on March 20, 2013. Those comments are now being closely analyzed and considered before a final Safety Culture Policy Statement is released.

In the nearly three years since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, BSEE has implemented various offshore oil and gas regulatory reforms. To date, the bureau has approved more than 2053 permits for oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico that meet these enhanced requirements. As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year the President has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in two decades and natural gas production at its highest level ever. Foreign oil imports now account for less than 40 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1988.

April 5, 2013

 

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