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Speech for Oil and Gas Awards - 6 November 2014

Judith Hackitt CBE, HSE Chair

Good Evening. Thank you for inviting me to be here tonight as your guest and giving me this opportunity to speak to you. I want to offer my congratulations to those who will later pick up awards. There is no doubt that an industry which is so important to the UK economically and strategically should celebrate its continued success – and in particular recognise the leaders of the future – companies and individuals.

The industry has also taken a lot of positive steps forward in the last few years. When I spoke at the safety awards 4 years ago I said that ‘a strong safety culture doesn’t happen overnight’ and that ‘it requires buy-in from everybody’ Last year it was clear to see just how deeply that message had been taken on board by the whole industry when I attended, and spoke at, the outstanding Piper 25 conference. I very much welcome the new Sector strategy for offshore oil and gas, and the commitment from key industry trade associations to participate in delivering its objectives and improvements.

 We also welcome and thank you for your contributions to the new Offshore Safety Directive – and we in the Health and Safety Executive will continue to work with you and the Trades Unions to ensure successful implementation of the legislation. The strategy focuses on major hazards – and it is essential the offshore industry gets a firm grip on this and the whole industry must agree what are the key advances we need to make. It is important to make real changes and not a series of quick win initiatives whose value quickly decays.

We acknowledge that you have strong views about how you want to be regulated and it is right that you should hold us to account on our performance as regulators just as we do with you on your performance as dutyholders. In 2013, a number of you expressed concern when we set up the Energy Division within HSE but I am confident that, 2 years on, you see that our commitment to regulating offshore safety has not changed. Susan Mackenzie has brought new thinking and ideas to the table about how we utilise our limited resources more effectively, but I also know very well that you have continued to feel pressured by us as the regulator to focus on doing the right things. Susan has moved on to become Director across all Major Hazards on and offshore so you will still be seeing a lot of her, but I am also delighted that Tony Hetherington will now be taking on the role of Head of Energy Division and will be providing continuity of our thinking and our approach.

We know that for you in business, some of the degrees of separation that you see in your regulators are less than ideal. I know from my own experience in industry that health safety and environment is seen as a fully integrated agenda for all of you – I want to assure you that we will continue to work closely with DECC and other government colleagues to deliver the most joined up service we possibly can. I also believe that it is important that we ensure that we can continue to share knowledge and resources – between on and offshore, across national and international boundaries and between sectors. The less boundaries and barriers to knowledge sharing and collaboration we create the better.

But what about you in industry? The industry leads in worker engagement – with the well-established system Elected Safety Representatives, as well as the new workforce Engagement Support Team. These are excellent ways of engaging the whole workforce in the importance of managing risks.

But we all need to constantly adapt. There is a changing demographic in the oil and gas industry as smaller companies emerge in the market. These smaller companies bring fantastic innovation, which these awards recognise, to the industry. Contractors now employ 85 per cent of the workforce.

There is still a lot of learning for us all to do, from one another and from good practices as well as from incidents. Aside from events like this one tonight which are about celebration there is a tendency to focus on failure and to focus too much on specific detail. We need to be looking for and learning the broader lessons, which are there to be learned about the systemic and cultural improvements we can make to our organisations rather than living with poor communications and a workforce operating under stress and pressure.

The oil and gas industry is global, so it’s in everyone’s interest to adopt approaches that maximise learning - learn lessons, challenge what is done and encourage continuous improvement.

The industry’s leaders are responsible and must demonstrate their commitment by ‘walking the talk’. As well as managing the immediate risk, the industry needs to develop leading indicators to demonstrate that necessary control measures are in place and working.

I hope that those organisation who are winners here tonight will not only go back and celebrate with colleagues in their own companies but will share their good practices more broadly across the industry.

We still face the challenges that over half of the offshore installations have exceeded their design life, most of the easily accessible resources have been extracted, so increasingly deep water, high temperature high pressure (HTHP) drilling will become common. You know the challenges better than I do and you know that when things go wrong, whoever it happens to, the impact is felt across the whole of this community. The same should be true of success as well.

The UK Continental Shelf is a challenging environment and we are a small country – but we are at the cutting edge on high temperature, high pressure, deep water exploration and extraction. You, as an industry, should be proud as you lead the world on technology development.

These challenges show why these awards are so important. People are the most important asset this industry, or any industry, has. I want you to reflect on the achievements of the winners, and all the nominees. What can you learn from what they have achieved? What inspiration can you take from these people that will change how you do things?

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to speak at these awards once again. And I offer my personal congratulations to all of the entrants – especially the winners. We are all on a long journey together to deliver essential benefits to society and ensuring that we do so safely and sustainably. It is right that you celebrate the successes with in the industry, take pride in the industry you work in and share good practice along the way.

Thank you.   


Updated 2015-02-13