Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill

Australian Professor Andrew Hopkins is currently in the United States advising the Chemical Safety Board in its investigation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Several months ago it was rumoured that Hopkins would be part of the Commission of Inquiry, a rumour quickly denied by Hopkins and others.

According to a media release from FutureMedia, Hopkins will

“…spend several months working at the Board’s office in Denver as well as interviewing company managers in both the US and in London, where BP is headquartered.”

Hopkins has been interviewed by many media outlets in relation to the Gulf Oil Spill and BP’s safety culture due to his investigation of the Texas Oil Refinery explosion at a BP facility in 2005.  Many of Hopkins’ works on OHS and safety culture are available online through Google Books though interested readers are strongly encouraged to purchase the books themselves.

The heat is not diminishing over the Gulf Oil Spill as recent media reports discuss the role of Halliburton the oil well’s structure.  The significance of Australia’s Montara Oil Spill investigation report being withheld by the Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and discussed in one of the Hopkins interviews:

“The Montara blow out and the commission of inquiry into that, as far as I know the report has not yet been made public, but I’m almost certain that they will identify a lax regulatory regime or inadequate regulatory regime as one of the factors involved and they will be recommending a much tougher regulatory regime.

Because the evidence is that what was going on there at the Montara oil field was much, was quite similar to what was happening in the Gulf of Mexico, with enormous pressure placed upon drilling managers to get things done as quickly as possible and by implication – never explicitly but by implication – to cut corners, whatever corners were necessary to speed the process up.”

Curiously Ferguson issued a media release on 28 October 2010 welcoming increased OHS oversight for Australia’s offshore petroleum industry but still won’t release the Montara Report until around Christmas.  It is tempting to hope that the regulatory changes in October 2010 anticipated many of the findings of the Montara investigation.  In the media release Ferguson specifically mentions “structural integrity” of wells and says:

“The two bills passed today strengthen the functions and powers of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority to regulate structural integrity in petroleum exploration and production.

“In the challenging environment of offshore operations it is critical that the individual responsibilities of all participants are clear and understood.

“These bills also provide important clarification of titleholders’ occupational health and safety duties in relation to wells, and improve the Safety Authority’s inspection and investigation powers in relation to suspected breaches.  Improved oversight of occupational health and safety as well as structural integrity in relation to wells will further minimise any risks to people and the environment from offshore petroleum activities.” [link added]

Kevin Jones

1 thought on “Australian OHS expert in advisory role on Gulf oil spill”

  1. Maybe all of the following could be translated into the new harmonised OH&S Act. if that is the priority that is placed on OH&S for off shore wells:

    “The two bills passed today strengthen the functions and powers of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority to regulate structural integrity in petroleum exploration and production.

    “In the challenging environment of offshore operations it is critical that the individual responsibilities of all participants are clear and understood.

    “These bills also provide important clarification of titleholders’ occupational health and safety duties in relation to wells, and improve the Safety Authority’s inspection and investigation powers in relation to suspected breaches. Improved oversight of occupational health and safety as well as structural integrity in relation to wells will further minimise any risks to people and the environment from offshore petroleum activities.”

    My information is, that the harmonisation process is really struggling and I doubt if we will see anything of any real value before Christmas and the process begs the question of quality of proposals formulated in such a rush.

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