ASSE’s Energy Industry Members Commend OSHA For Multi-Agency Dialogue on Work Safety
DES PLAINES, IL (October 26, 2012) – The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) commended the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for holding an ‘Expert Forum’ in Texas with four other federal regulatory agencies and stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to discuss the use of performance-based regulatory approaches in the oil and gas industry.
In his October 22 letter to OSHA, ASSE President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, said, “ASSE is encouraged that the five agencies have begun an open discussion that, with diligence and continued transparency, can establish a comprehensive regulatory strategy that both meets the responsibilities each agency has been given to protect workers, workplaces and the environment, and establish a common approach to regulation so that stakeholders in the industry can clearly understand the regulatory responsibilities they must meet.”
ASSE members from the fastest growing ASSE practice specialty group–oil and gas who participated in the forum said they appreciated the opportunity to share their views and listen to others’ perspective on a complex but critical issue, and commended OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels’ leadership in bringing the five agencies together to listen to oil and gas industry stakeholders.
“ASSE believes wholeheartedly that performance-based regulations can ensure adequate levels of safety. Our members in the oil and gas industry and every other industry already work in risk-based environments where they help employers achieve levels of safety far above the results achievable in compliance with prescriptive approaches,” Pollock said.
The September 20-21, 2012, forum held in Texas City at the College of the Mainland included officials from the Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE); the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and the Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Representing ASSE at the forum was ASSE’s Government Affairs Committee and Oil and Gas Practice Specialty members Gene Barfield and Ron Sokol.
ASSE’s detailed comments to OSHA shared its members’ experience with Process Safety Management (PSM) and expressed its encouragement in the risk-based approach taken by BSEE in the Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) being implemented in the off shore sector.
“ASSE is championing a risk-based approach to regulating employers’ commitment to workplace safety and health,” Pollock also noted. “That being said, our members also know that, especially in the complex workplaces found in the oil and gas industry, a limit exists on how effective even risk-based regulatory approaches can be. Prescriptive and management-based regulatory elements will have to be included in an overall risk-based approach. The task of merging these regulatory approaches is not for the timid, and, of course, no one group or person has a full grasp of how to accomplish it.”
Issues the agencies will have to address in moving forward, ASSE’s statement said, included the agencies’ ability to have enough adequately trained staff in performance-based regulatory approaches, establishing consistency in enforcement approaches when owner/operators develop different solutions for meeting a standard, and the ability of small owner/operators to implement safety and health management systems.
Key to advancing the use of performance-based approaches to managing risks, ASSE went on to say, will be dependent on owner/operators having in place occupational safety and health management systems that meet ANSI Z10 or OSHAS 18000 voluntary consensus standards. ASSE also urged greater outreach by OSHA to encourage owners/operators to participate in its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) where the performance-based management systems approach is already required and shown to be successful in preventing incidents.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues. Go to http://www.asse.org/professionalaffairs_new/communications/federal/ for the OSHA letter and to the ASSE oil and gas practice specialty group at http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/oilgas/.
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