The offshore installations (prevention of fire and explosion, emergency response) regulations 1995



1  This SPC provides information on interpretation and enforcement of the Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995 PFEER. It should be read in conjunction with the ACOP and guidance, booklet L65.


2  PFEER defines goals for the preventive and protective measures necessary for managing fire and explosion hazards, and for emergency response. These goals allow dutyholders the flexibility to develop detailed arrangements for each stage of an installation's life cycle. PFEER includes requirements for the prevention, detection, control and mitigation of fire and explosion. It requires arrangements for detecting and responding to other emergencies, such as loss of stability, ship collision, and helicopter ditching near an installation, although there is no requirement to prevent such occurrences. It covers major accident and other hazards, although the assessment provisions are confined to the former.

Relationship with the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 2005 SCR

3  The safety case provides evidence that dutyholders have management systems to identify hazards with major accident potential, evaluate the risk and put in place measures to comply with the relevant statutory provisions.

4  The organisation and arrangements to comply with PFEER are part of a dutyholder's management system. PFEER supports SCR by providing the statutory framework for aspects of fire, explosion, evacuation, escape, and rescue required to be addressed in a safety case. PFEER is a primary enforcement tool for inspection, whereas safety case requirements are mainly documentary. The information in a safety case may be used to support enforcement under PFEER.


5  PFEER applies to fixed and mobile installations, but not to mobile installations in transit. Manoeuvring on station immediately before or after transit is covered by PFEER.

Relationship with the Emergency Pollution Control Regulations 2002

6  The Offshore Installations (Emergency Pollution Control) Regulations 2002, SI 1861 (EPCR) are enforced by DECC. They give the Secretary of State powers to direct dutyholders to take action in the event of a pollution incident. Section 4 of the guidance addresses the interface with the emergency response requirements of health and safety legislation.

Industry guidance

7  Oil and Gas UK has produced guides on:

  • Fire and Explosion Guidance,
  • Management of Emergency Response, and

These set out a strategy to meet the goals of PFEER. They are based on a life-cycle approach which addresses safety systems whilst highlighting opportunities for enhancing inherently safer design.

8 The guides summarise the activities to be carried out, the decisions to be taken and the optimum timing in the lifetime of an installation from concept through design and commissioning, operation, modification and abandonment. They aim to integrate the efforts of those who contribute to risk management, including the design disciplines, risk assessors, fire and explosion specialists, operators and auditors. The guides highlight performance standards as the link between the demonstration and the practical achievement of safe operation.

'Appropriate measures with a view to ...'

9  Variations of this phrase are used in several regulations. Advice on interpretation is in paragraph 35 of booklet L65. The term 'so far as is reasonably practicable' is used infrequently. The terms are similar but not identical, and in the absence of a court ruling they should be applied with caution.

10  Regulation 4 is referred to in the SCR schedules, which require safety cases to include a description of how regulation 4(1) is complied with.

Inspection approach

11  The following questions can be used:

Regulation 5

  • have the appropriate assessments been carried out?
  • what measures are used to remove or control the risk?
  • what performance standards have been established?
  • are these standards appropriate?

Regulation 8

  • has the emergency response plan been tested?
  • does the plan incorporate as appropriate the requirements of regulations 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 17?

Regulation 17

  • do the performance standards for survival exceed those for rescue and recovery by an adequate margin?
  • have these standards been justified?

Regulation 19

  • is the plant provided under this regulation suitable and appropriately maintained with respect to health and safety matters?
  • is there a suitable written scheme?
  • are examinations under the scheme carried out by competent and independent persons?

Assessment (regulation 5)

12  Assessment is the key to compliance with the major accident hazard requirements in PFEER, and should be given priority. Assessments need not be stand-alone documents. However, they do contain essential information for the decision-making process. They should be available to the offshore management, the safety representatives and other interested parties. Inspectors should satisfy themselves that this information is accessible and usable.

Performance standards (regulation 5)

13  The dutyholder needs to establish performance standards for the measures provided. They will vary with the circumstances. Some standards will be constrained by outside conditions, such as survival times for a person escaping to the sea. In each case the dutyholder must demonstrate that the standard is appropriate and achievable. See paragraphs 45 and 50-58 of the ACOP.

14  Performance standards can be an effective way of probing compliance with PFEER in relation to major accident hazards. They may be described in terms of functionality, survivability, reliability and availability, all of which can be examined by inspectors.

Preparation for emergencies (regulation 6)

15  The introduction of PFEER coincided with revised survival and specialist training arrangements. Part of the rationale for reducing the training for all employees was the increasing use of installation-specific training. Inspectors should ensure the total package of training meets the requirements of this regulation. Oil and Gas UK publish a document 'The Management of Competence and Training in Emergency Response for Offshore Installations'.

Equipment for helicopter emergencies (regulation 7)

16  The equipment should be appropriate for the particular requirements of helicopter accidents on that installation. A list of suggested equipment is:

  • an aircraft-type axe
  • a large axe
  • a heavy-duty hacksaw, with spare blades
  • a grab hook
  • a quick release knife
  • a crowbar, and
  • a pair of large bolt croppers

Location of equipment

17  Guidance on the meaning of 'near' is in paragraph 73 of booklet L65. The equipment should be close enough to the helideck to avoid delay in using it. Inspectors may wish to test the effectiveness of the procedures for deploying the equipment.

Emergency response (regulation 8)

18  Preparing the emergency response plan is more than a documentary exercise. It needs to consider information from assessments (regulation 5), preparation (regulation 6), detection, control, mitigation, muster areas, evacuation, means of escape, and recovery and rescue (regulations 10 to 17). The plan should also include arrangements for medical and first-aid provision under the Offshore Installations and Pipelines (First-Aid) Regulations 1989.

19  Testing of emergency procedures should concentrate on the ability of the plan to deal with any scenario selected, and the effectiveness of contingency arrangements. Regulation 8(3) and paragraph 85 of the ACOP cover testing, monitoring and reviewing the plan. The safety case should indicate the likely major accident hazard scenarios, and inspectors may wish to question the selection of scenarios for testing emergency procedures.

20  Consultees should include the coastguard and operators of standby vessels, as well as other emergency services who may have a role in shore-based aspects of an emergency. See also commentary on regulation 17 below.

Communication (regulation 11)

21  The intention of regulation 11(2) is to harmonise the alarms on offshore installations. On MODUs the marine signal of 7 short and 1 long may be accepted as an audible warning. Some dutyholders may use additional status lights - see paragraph 108 of booklet L65.

Control of emergencies (regulation 12)

22  On an attended installation the central control point will usually be continually staffed, although this is not a specific requirement. The dutyholder should consider the need for auxiliary control points and if they should be staffed.

Muster areas, etc. (regulation 14)

23  Booklet L65 indicates that emergency lighting includes, where appropriate, floor level illumination. It does not have to be installed in the floor; lighting on walls and bulkheads is sufficient if it lights the floor adequately.

24  Doors for use in an emergency are those specifically designated as emergency exits or as doors on emergency routes. The appropriate direction of opening is in the direction of travel in an emergency. Where doors may provide not only exit but access in an emergency, for example to the temporary refuge, the appropriate direction is outwards from the muster area.

25  Two means of escape from accommodation areas does not mean from within a cabin. Once out of the cabin there should be two separate means of escape. See also paragraph 139 of booklet L65.

26  Regulation 14(4) requires an up-to-date list of persons assigned to each muster station to be displayed. If the list is not displayed at the muster station there should be equally effective means of accounting for personnel.

Arrangements for evacuation (regulation 15)

27  The arrangements should refer to preferred and alternative means of evacuation, with sufficient capacity for all on board. Only in exceptional circumstances should lifeboats be the preferred means of evacuation.

28  Lifeboats should be able to get away quickly from the installation and where reasonably practicable be oriented away from the installation after launch. When lifeboat provisions are being reviewed these requirements should be a priority.

29  Dutyholders should take account of any constraints on evacuation, such as the weather, the nature and location of an emergency and the time available to evacuate.

30  Minimum lifeboat capacity should be 150% of the installation complement. In addition the lifeboats readily accessible from the temporary refuge should have sufficient capacity for all on board. The need for additional lifeboats should be determined by the regulation 5 assessment. They may be needed where personnel may work, congregate or be trapped.

Evacuation of divers

31  PFEER does not require a preferred and an alternative means of evacuation for all persons at all times and under all circumstances. Saturation diving is an example where the normal means of egress is not the preferred means of evacuation. Two separate means of evacuation is not normally possible in this case.

32  Nevertheless divers in saturation are at high risk, and getting them away from the installation in the event of an emergency is an essential part of the Regulation 5 assessment. The reduced availability of means of evacuation means the risk to divers is high, so the first steps which an installation owner/operator must take are to reduce the need for evacuation. This should include no drilling into hydrocarbon-bearing formations while divers are in saturation, and the appropriate location and protection of the dive spread to minimise the risk of damage in foreseeable incidents. Orientation of a hyperbaric lifeboat away from the installation after launch is essential. Where the assessment does not address these matters, a strong enforcement line is appropriate.

33  Where risks remain significant, further means of getting divers in saturation to a place of safety should be provided, enforced using regulations 15 and 16 or the HSW Act, with the usual tests for reasonable practicability.

34  Lift-off, hyperbaric escape pods can be provided for evacuation, and also for means of escape under regulation 16. Careful design and testing is necessary to ensure effectiveness under all foreseeable circumstances.

35  Effective arrangements are also needed for the recovery or rescue of saturation divers and taking them to a place of safety, under regulation 17.

Arrangements for escape (regulation 16)

36  Dutyholders are required to provide means of escape in the event of failure of the evacuation system. Inspectors should pay particular attention to novel systems, and look for sound supporting arguments. Discussion with OSD specialists is appropriate.

37  Paragraph 161 of the ACOP indicates that 'dutyholders should select means of escape on the basis of their contribution to reducing the risks of those who may have to escape from the installation to as low as is reasonable practicable'. It also indicates 'sufficient means of descent to the sea should be provided on all installations, including fixed ladders, where reasonably practicable, and personal devices for controlled descent'.

38  Some installations do not have personal devices for controlled descent to the sea. If dutyholders have not followed the ACOP they will need to show that they have complied with regulation 16 in another way, so that the overall package of measures satisfies its requirements. If this not the case, the Enforcement Management Model should be applied to determine enforcement action. The benchmark for measuring any risk gap is the level of risk achieved by the standards in the ACOP. The regulation 5 assessment should justify decisions made on means of escape.

Recovery & rescue (regulation 17)

39  Effective arrangements must be made for recovery, rescue, etc., including arrangements with suitable persons beyond the installation. If the search and rescue facilities provided by the coastguard are liable to be stretched, for example at remote locations, the dutyholder may need to provide in-field facilities. The consultations for the emergency response plan under regulation 8 should include this point.

40  This regulation does not require a standby vessel at every attended installation. However a standby vessel may be the only effective means of compliance. The dutyholder must provide effective arrangements for recovery, rescue and taking to a place of safety which secures a good prospect of achieving these objectives. The dutyholder may not aggregate all risks as a basis for arguing for arrangements which do not provide a good prospect of survival.

Good prospect

41  'Good prospect' is explained in paragraph 165 of booklet L65. Where it is reasonably foreseeable that recovery or rescue may be required and a suitable standby vessel is not provided, effective alternative arrangements should be provided. The standards achieved by a standby vessel, in all but the most severe weather conditions, is a basis for comparison.

Reasonable foreseeability

42  The ACOP refers to 'reasonably foreseeable' events. This is a more stringent test than one based solely on risk. An event may be reasonably foreseeable but of low probability. In making a judgement on what events are reasonably foreseeable the test usually applied is one of the intelligent lay person.

43  For example, the principle of reasonable foreseeability regarding machinery is established in case law. In Mitchell v. North British Rubber Co. Ltd, the injured party's hand was crushed between unguarded rollers. It was held by the Sheriff-substitute that the rolls were not dangerous owing to the simplicity of operation and 'the slowness of the rollers in revolution'.

44  The High Court of Justiciary, however, held the rolls were dangerous. The fact that the machinery had been in use since 1917 without an accident was an element for consideration, but it was an element which did not go far. The Lord-Justice-Clerk said: 'The question is not whether the occupiers of the factory knew that it was dangerous; nor whether the Factory Inspector had so reported; nor whether previous accidents had occurred; nor whether the victims of these accidents had, or had not, been contributorily negligent. The test is objective and impersonal. Is the part such in its character, and so circumstanced in its position, exposure, method of operation and the like, that in the ordinary course of human affairs danger may reasonably be anticipated from its use unfenced, not only to the prudent, alert and skilled operative intent upon his task, but also to the careless and inattentive worker whose inadvertent or indolent conduct may expose him to risk of injury or death from the unguarded part?'.

45  Whether a fall overboard is reasonably foreseeable could depend on whether the foothold or handhold is secure. This is the test applied in Walker v Bletchley Flettons namely, whether something is a reasonably foreseeable cause of injury to anybody acting in a way in which a human being might reasonably be expected to act, in circumstances which might reasonably be expected to occur.

46  The case of Tinto v Stewarts & Lloyds found that a foothold which is secure in normal circumstances is not insecure merely because the abnormal occurrence of an explosion might throw a man off it.

47  Suggestions that there are no reasonably foreseeable events requiring recovery and rescue should be challenged, and referred to the appropriate topic team. For an attended installation, in most circumstances there are reasonably foreseeable risks of persons entering the water.

Suitability and condition of plant (regulation 19)

48  This regulation applies only to plant provided to meet PFEER requirements. Such plant has to be suitable for its purpose and be maintained.


49  PFEER provides for exemption from its requirements, although this should not normally be necessary. Exemptions cannot be given from the parts which implement the Extractive Industries (Boreholes) Directive. Guidance on exemptions is available.

Further information

50 Further information can be obtained from the OSD Legal and Operational Strategy team, 01224 252603.

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Updated 2022-08-11