Many employees on offshore oil and gas installations have to rely on personnel protective equipment to avoid work related diseases. This is not recognised as a proper prevention strategy. High noise levels and bad ergonomic solutions are often intimately embedded in the design of the installations. To rectify a hazardous design by technical modifications in the operating phase are difficult to achieve and expensive to perform. Occupational health and safety achievements seem not to fit well into traditional cost benefit based decision-making.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has since 1995 enforced an occupational health and safety legislation that focus in particular on a systematic approach in the planning phase of offshore development projects. The NPD has followed most of the recent offshore projects closely through audits and verifications.

The Norwegian petroleum industry has followed up the legislative initiative by developing specific standards for how to implement occupational health and safety requirements in the engineering phase.

Over the last few years we have observed substantial improvements of the engineering practice. A common understanding of requirements and structured co-operation between project management, experienced workers, design engineers and occupational health and safety experts seems to be important pre-requisites for success.

This paper will describe and discuss key elements of the Norwegian legislative basis and bring forward some of the experience gained trough project auditing and follow-up activity related to implementation of occupational health and safety requirements in the engineering phase of offshore development projects.

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