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A recent article published by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) recapped an important panel discussion which took place at the 2017 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston earlier this month. A group of industry EHS professionals and government regulators had gathered to discuss the effects of continued low oil prices on worker safety in the offshore oil & gas industry. The panel members concluded that current market conditions, combined with the operational characteristics and already highly-hazardous nature of the industry, have created a perfect storm in which workers are at substantially increased risk.

Among the members of the panel was Lars Herbst, Gulf of Mexico Region Director for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). Herbst pointed to recent evidence that indicates a growing risk of injury or death among offshore workers. For example, he noted that in 2017, BSEE has seen a 100% YOY increase in G-111 inspection violations stemming from inadequate or improper facility and equipment maintenance. Herbst suggested that this increase is the result of companies deferring routine maintenance costs and postponing planned investments in new equipment in order to offset the persistently weak price of crude oil, which has hovered around just $50 per barrel since 2015. Herbst added that employees of smaller independent drilling companies are at even greater risk, as those companies are more likely to sacrifice spending on health, safety, and environmental safeguards in an effort to remain competitive with larger producers, particularly in deepwater environments where operational costs are significantly greater than those for near-shore.

Offshore producers are keenly aware of the intense financial pressures they face, as well as the need to protect the lives of their crews. It’s an unfortunate reality that many companies deprioritize EHS management when financial resources are constrained, but industry leaders recognize that the return on investment is well worth the cost. They are actively seeking strategies ensure the safety of their operations and their employees, while also maintaining productivity and profitability in a challenging market. Industry EHS professionals from companies like ABS Consulting, Anadarko, and Shell who also attended the panel pointed to the need for a more risk-based approach that utilizes greater amounts of data and metrics to inform better EHS management and operational decisions. They also expressed a greater desire for sharing of safety information within, and perhaps even among drilling companies in order to develop and refine safety best practices. The dilemma, however, lies in finding solutions to these challenges without having to commit a significant investment of time and money.

VelocityEHS Can Help!

While an enterprise-wide overhaul of your existing EHS management systems and processes may be too resource-intensive in the current market, an investment in more advanced EHS management software offers a quick and cost-effective solution that can be the catalyst for creating a safer, more sustainable operation. The VelocityEHS platform offers a comprehensive suite of easy-to-use, easy-to-implement cloud software solutions designed to provide users with speed, simplicity and high-performance at an affordable cost. With integrated solutions for everything from Incident Management, Training Management and Risk Analysis — to Management of Change, Compliance Management and more, the VelocityEHS platform offers the tools you need to meet your biggest EHS management challenges.

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