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December 13, 2013
Cease-work orders for 5 offshore operators

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) demonstrated its seriousness about a compliance deadline by ordering five companies to cease offshore operations for allegedly failing to submit an audit plan as required by BSEE’s Safety and Environmental Systems (SEMS) requirements. 

In total, the BSEE cited 12 of the 84 offshore operators that were required to meet a November 15, 2013, deadline to both submit SEMS audit plans and complete the audits.  The seven additional operators had submitted audit plans but did not complete the audits on time.


The SEMS requirements are part of BSEE’s Workplace Safety Rule, which the agency issued in October 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Required elements in a SEMS include:

  • A hazards analysis;
  • Written operating procedures;
  • Safe work practices;
  • Safety and technical training, including training for contractors;
  • Pre-start-up review of all systems;
  • Emergency response validated by drills; and
  • A SEMS audit. 

The SEMS was required to be in place by November 15, 2011, and an initial audit had to be completed within 2 years.  Additional audits must be conducted at 3-year intervals. 

‘Repeated notifications’

According to the BSEE, the five companies were given 3 days to reach a safe point and then were ordered to cease operations.  The seven other companies were ordered to immediately provide the BSEE with copies of their SEMS program; have the CEOs of the companies certify, under penalty of perjury, that their companies implemented the SEMS program; and complete their SEMS audit without further delay. 

The BSEE said it may take other enforcement measures against the alleged violators, including assessment of civil penalties, if the operators do not meet their requirements.

The Bureau said it took these actions only after repeated notifications via e-mail and letter to the companies during the past year, reminding them of the deadline and offering to work with them to ensure they understood the requirements.  The BSEE said it also offered to waive the requirement to submit an audit plan 30 days before conducting the audit in an effort to encourage operators to complete their audits in advance of the deadline.

Most of the 12 companies were involved in plugging and abandonment, and the impact on production in the Gulf was negligible, says the BSEE. 

The BSEE also issued a SEMS II rule that adds substantial requirements to the baseline SEMS provisions.  These additional requirements include providing any and all offshore industry personnel with stop-work authority when an imminent risk or dangerous activity is witnessed and establishing guidelines that enable offshore industry personnel to report unsafe working conditions and possible violations of safety and environmental regulations requirements and threats of danger directly to the BSEE.

The SEMS II rule became effective June 4, 2013.  Operators have until June 4, 2014, to comply with provisions, except for the auditing requirements.  All SEMS audits must be in compliance with the SEMS II rule by June 4, 2015.

Information on the Workplace Safety Rule and the SEMS requirements

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