Confidential 'near-miss' reporting system for O&G
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April 11, 2014
Confidential 'near-miss' reporting system for O&G

The O&G sector is a highly interested participant in the federal government’s efforts to launch its Voluntary Confidential Near-Miss Reporting System for use on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  Announced in August 2013 by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE) and the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the intent of the system is to provide the BSEE, offshore companies, and workers with an opportunity to confidentially submit essential information to the BTS about accident precursors and hazards associated with OCS O&G operations. 

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The BTS would then provide all stakeholders with aggregated data and analysis that, in conjunction with incident reports and other sources of information, can be used to reduce those hazards and continue building a more robust OCS safety culture, says the BSEE.
Fear of reprisals

The Near-Miss System is taking shape in part because of the postaccident assessments of the Deepwater Horizon incident as well as other offshore O&G accidents where contributing causes were apparent to some before the incidents, but not corrected in time to prevent the events.  It is well recognized that employees, contractors, and other parties involved in offshore O&G operations are reluctant to report hazardous conditions because of fear of reprisals. 

‘Third-party’ assessment

In a blog, BSEE’s Andre King also notes that, historically, it has only been through postaccident investigations that federal and state agencies have been able to closely examine the series of events that led to disasters.  The BSEE has made use of these data, but “we can only garner so much information from an investigation,” says King.

As described by King, an important aspect of the Near-Miss System is that the identity of individuals and companies that submit reports will be completely confidential and protected under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act.  The BTS will be pivotal in these protections, serving as a “third party” that will collect near-miss reports and analyze the data.  Individuals and companies making reports will be legally protected from disclosure and from release under the Freedom of Information Act.

“What this means for the offshore oil and gas industry is that BSEE will not have access to identifying information and will not use these reports for enforcement actions,” says King.  “What we will receive, as will the oil and gas industry, is the aggregated data and analysis for safety purposes.  Together, we can look at this information and use it to identify leading and lagging indicators to help prevent future incidents.”

Workshops scheduled

Some individual operators already have similar systems in place for their companies, notes King, but there is not yet a system for sharing that information or lessons learned.  King adds that the BSEE has already begun meeting with operators to discuss this system and are collecting their input.  Also, the BSEE has scheduled two public workshops on the system on April 22, 2014, in Los Angeles and April 24, 2014, in Houston.

Information on the public workshops was published in the March 28, 2014, FR.

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