BSEE issues new rule increasing offshore safety requirements

The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a new Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) rule for offshore oil and gas activity that aims to improve SEMS requirements under the original workplace safety rule that became effective on Nov. 15, 2010.

This SEMS II final rule supplements operators’ programs by requiring more employee participation, empowering field-level personnel with safety management decisions, and strengthening oversight by requiring audits to be conducted by accredited third parties, BSEE said on Apr. 4.

It said operators were required under the original rule to implement a SEMS program by Nov. 15, 2011, and must still submit their first completed SEMS audit to BSEE by Nov. 15, 2013. The SEMS II final rule that BSEE issued Apr. 4 is effective June 4, but does not affect an operator’s first audit cycle, the US Department of the Interior agency said.

The programs reflect reforms adopted following the Apr. 20, 2010, blowout and fire that killed 11 people at BP PLC’s Macondo deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico. As part of its ongoing effort to ensure that safety is the top offshore oil and gas priority, BSEE said it released a draft safety culture policy statement on Dec. 20, 2012, to provide a common definition for everyone working offshore.

It said the policy statement draft outlined BSEE's safety culture approach and was meant to inform the offshore community of the agency’s safety expectations. The public comment period for the draft closed on Mar. 20, and BSEE said it now is closely analyzing and considering the comments before it releases a final version.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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