The paper is based on the proposition that offshore workers are not sufficiently focused on issues that have the potential to lead to a major incident. On the contrary, for many years offshore workers have been motivated to focus on issues that could lead to personal injuries and lost time incidents. The most severe consequence of these personal injuries would be one fatality, as compared with the tens or hundreds of potential fatalities potentially associated with a major incident.
Significant manpower has been used both on and offshore to train personnel to protect themselves and others to avoid personal injuries. This often involves simple actions, that are easy to understand and with little cost to the company. By contrast, the resources used on prediction and avoidance of issues that could lead to major accidents are not sufficient at many levels in offshore organisations.
In order to reduce the risk of major accidents the required actions are often complex, sometimes expensive, and not easy for everybody to understand. The risk of major failure is limited, but the consequences are large if a failure should occur. As an example of this principle, records show that since 1967 fatalities due to major accidents have been 53% of the total number of fatalities on the Norwegian continental shelf. If helicopter accidents are included the percentage is 73 %.
These issues have been illustrated by a survey of several hundred personnel on offshore facilities. The results from the survey are clear and show that there is a need for change in the daily focus of the safety work on offshore installations.
The title for this paper is a question: "Is there too low a focus on issues that may lead to major accidents?" In actuality we are questioning the balance between the focus the industry has on issues that could lead to smaller accidents versus those issues that could lead to major accidents.
This paper suggests the offshore industry as a whole does not have sufficient focus on issues that could lead to major accidents. If that is true, the industry must improve its focus on this area.
A major accident can easily precipitate the demise of an entire corporation, or a considerable reduction in a company's activity. In addition these major accidents are a setback for the industry as a whole, and understandably provoke a backlash in public opinion against the industry. There may also be political consequences such as slowing down the development of the oil industry in environmentally sensitive areas.