BRADY AUSTIN, LLOYD’S REGISTER, HOUSTON
INDUSTRY IS FOCUSED ON PREVENTION TO AVOID INJURIES,
LOSS OF LIFE, AND FINANCIAL COSTS OF FAILURE
Safety culture is changing
PAST OFFSHORE disasters like the 1988 Piper Alpha in the United
Kingdom and the 2010 Macondo well failure set the stage for a
strong drive to improve the safety culture in offshore US waters.
Although it can be difficult to measure change in the safety culture
of the oil and gas industry, most people would agree the devastating
impacts of these two high-profile accidents led to many changes
in how we approach safety.
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a terrible tragedy to make
industry refocus safety considerations, in addition to continuous
improvement. Although we can never know when and where our
next major incident will occur, we know from past experience that
most incidents occur as a result of management system failures.
A good management system is focused on preventing failures.
It would be a challenge for most companies in today’s environ-
ment to survive the financial costs of a major accident. Some cost
estimates for the Macondo disaster go as high as $70 billion for BP,
the operator. As we all know, the entire industry suffered tremen-
dous financial loss and if there was a positive element from this
tragedy, it is that the oil and gas industry and regulators united to
establish the Safety and Environmental Management System, or
SEMS, for all offshore operations in US waters. One of the benefits
of SEMS is there is now more sharing of information and collabo-
ration across the industry and regulators.
SEMS has similarities to management system methodologies like
the more familiar ISO 9001 and 14001 or even some of the many
industry specific methodologies such as American Petroleum
Institute (API) Spec Q1 and Q2. After the Macondo incident, it was
a logical step by the regulators to use the industry’s “book of knowl-
SEMS is a management system and encourages the use of performance-based operating
practices to improve the safety of offshore
operations such as Anadarko’s deepwater
Lucius platform. – Anadarko photo