This website uses non-intrusive cookies to improve your user experience. You can visit our cookie privacy page for more information.

Offshore Division research priorities 2009-2014


HSE's Offshore Division (OSD) has an impressive history of commissioning offshore research, with over 550 reports from its offshore-related research available from the HSE website alone. At the time of OSD's transfer to HSE post Piper Alpha, OSD's research budget of some £3.6 m/yr and research commissioning/management by OSD topic specialists remained a very significant part of their core workload. Into the new millennium, the research environment in HSE has changed, although there are still significant resources committed to this research work, with around 40 offshore-related research projects undertaken during 2008/09.

OSD's offshore research is undertaken by a mixture of:

This strategy describes how OSD's research programme is identified and prioritised.  It also provides a horizon scan of researchable issues to be considered over the next five years by setting out OSD's research requirements for a range of technical topics which have been identified from an analysis of each topic strategy (see Annex 1 for further details).

Research priorities

The purpose of OSD's research activity is, quite simply, to take forward in an offshore context the wider HSE strategy as the UK's regulatory body responsible for health & safety at work within Great Britain. The requirements for research are based on an assessment of OSD's future business needs in relation to offshore health and safety regulation, principally culled from the series of strategies which describe plans for intervention activities within the period 2008-13 for each of the technical topic areas which come within its responsibilities.

However, in assisting OSD to prioritise finite funding and resource into research activities, the following broad categories are currently considered to be prime areas for funding:

Any proposals for research against these priorities are based on individual business cases which clearly set out the purpose of the work, how HSE intends to use the results of that work, and how the results will be communicated to industry.

Further assistance to OSD to identify and prioritise such research activities provided by meetings of a joint Industry Offshore Research Working, and OIAC, as well as direct discussions with key research stakeholders such as the Energy Institute.

OSD also works international to identify research areas with other offshore safety regulators, principally through ICRARD (the International Committee for Regulatory Research and Development). The purpose of ICRARD is to share knowledge about research programmes in the area of health, environment and safety in the offshore petroleum sector. Membership comprises UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

Topic research requirements

Structural integrity

The OSD strategy for structural integrity is aimed at tackling asset integrity issues facing the industry over the next five years. Although, historically, considerable resources have been allocated to structural integrity research, some aspects are still characterised by a lack of knowledge and research is required to enable delivery of the strategy.

Research in structural integrity is divided into seven topic areas:

  1. Ageing installations and the management of structural integrity for all types of structures.
  2. Improved understanding of dynamic loading and Foundation failure (including jack-up site investigation
  3. Materials technology
  4. Reliability techniques (quantification and performance standards) Understanding uncertainties in extreme weather
  5. Fire and explosion response refinement

Linked to this, the following issues relating to jack-ups may in particular prompt future research work:

Maritime integrity of floating and mobile installations

There is a continuing need to disseminate to the offshore industry reliable marine accident and incident data reported to HSE by regular updating of the existing database (future funding arrangements have been agreed between Oil & Gas UK and HSE).

Further research may be required in order to address the integrity of mooring systems under higher dynamic loads, together with the need to better understand environmental forces on FPSO and FSU installations as UKCS production moves into deeper and more hazardous waters.

Materials and corrosion

New intelligence may result in the questioning of the adequacy of current industry practice in the areas of possible chloride stress corrosion cracking of duplex steels at lower temperatures than recognised by existing good industry practice. Intelligence will also be gathered for materials, with research prompted by:

Research is currently ongoing to support the development of guidance to OSD inspectors on the use of composites in offshore environments, and it is anticipated that similar work will be needed for aluminium.

Mechanical engineering systems

There are a number of priority areas for future research related to pressure systems integrity:

Research priorities in connection with lifting and mechanical handling operations are:

Human and organisational factors

An extensive catalogue of human factors research reports covering a wide range of topics is published on HSE's web site, many containing self-assessment material for duty holders to use and good practice advice. Independent evaluation confirms that these reports continue to operate as positive influence on the industry and OSD will continue to work to raise the profile of these reports, which remain relevant to current and future issues, for example by targeted events. The Human and Organisational Factors Team will continue to participate in a number of offshore industry working groups and advisory committees (e.g. The Energy Institute Human Factors Working Group) through which influence can be exerted on the direction of research and development spending by the industry.

Future human factors research is expected to be aimed at;

Future organisation & management research is expected to be aimed at;

Process safety

There are currently no identified process integrity related research requirements.

Fire, explosion & risk assessment

Work will continue in order to  identify knowledge gaps requiring research to provide or raise standards and to support enforcement where there is a need to exert influence, including:

Key priorities also include include:

Electrical/control & instrumentation safety

Research into the integrity of ageing Ex electrical equipment in order to determine if integrity has been compromised by corrosion, is the only topic for which future research is proposed.


Further work may be required in the areas of diver helmet noise and hazards arising from differential pressures, both of which are subject to current projects.

Well operations

No future research requirements have been identified.

Occupational health

Most of the occupational health hazards common to industry onshore are present offshore and the basic issues have remained the same over the last 20 years. Occupational health is a priority area for HSE with musculoskeletal disease, stress, chemicals, noise and vibration being key programmes of work. The evidence base on the nature and extent of ill-health offshore is limited, however. Future research needs are;

Marine & aviation operations


A need for the update of the Ship/Platform Collision Incidents Database has been identified in order to ensure that industry has the most current data available for assessing collision risk in the UKCS.


OSD is currently co-funding helicopter safety research identified by the Joint Industry/CAA Helicopter Research Management Committee (HSRMC). HSRMC will remain the forum whereby safety helicopter research needs will be identified.

Emergency response

3.13.1 The Evacuation, Escape and Rescue Technical Advisory Group (EERTAG), is the main industry Group for dealing with emergency response matters. OSD is represented on this Group which provides a forum for regular discussion of research needs in the area of emergency response.

3.13.2 The need for the possible participation by HSE in future research within the following areas exists;


The existing trend for cessation of production to be deferred to enable existing facilities to be used to maximise economic recovery of existing oil and gas reserves is likely to continue for a while making the timing of the anticipated gathering of pace of decommissioning and dismantlement operations difficult to judge. HSE has funded comparatively little research in this area up to now, although it is a formal member of a JIP currently in the process of being commissioned by four of the major industry players to gather information on accidents from ongoing decommissioning projects. This should fill an existing information gap and assist in the identification of future research needs.

Annex 1 Topic strategies

The following topic strategies are available on our website:

Updated 2017-03-14