Safety regulations continue to be introduced in the UK in line with recommendations from Lord Cullen's Piper Alpha report. This month, the Pipelines Safety Regulations (1996) come into effect, coinciding with the opening up of Britain's gas market as well as the introduction of new rules relating to gas safety management.
The new regulations replace two different regulatory regime with one that is goal-setting and risk-based: it applies to off and onshore lines. A two-tier approach has been adopted, with a series of general duties relevant to all pipelines, and further duties applied to lines assessed as having major potential for accidents.
On the general front, all pipelines must be designed to be as safe as practicable, within the range of operating conditions they could be subjected to. They must also be constructed and installed as designed; maintained for secure operation and to prevent loss of containment; and decommissioned at the end of their life in a non-hazardous fashion.
Pipeline operators with additional hazard-related duties must notify HSE at key stages throughout their line's life, and also prepare emergency procedures and a major prevention accident document.
At the end of June, more regulations come into force relating to design and construction of offshore installations and wells. They complete HSE's review and reform of offshore safety law announced in August 1992.
Main requirements include:
- to ensure integrity of an installation throughout its life, and to minimize risks to personnel from structural failure or stability loss
- to provide a general framework for ensuring the safe condition of an offshore well at all times, including a scheme of examination by a competent, independent authority.
Lord Cullen's recommended measures appear to be working. New statistics from HSE covering April 1 1994 to March 31, 1995 show a drop in UK offshore sector incidents compared with the previous year. Serious injuries fell to 41 (from 52 the previous year); over-three day injuries totaled 270 (412); and 594 dangerous occurrences were reported (633). Combined fatalities and injuries were at their lowest since 1980.
The UK Offshore Operators Association points out that nearly 5 billion has been spent on implementing Lord Cullen's recommendations and other safety initiatives in the UK sector. And all offshore installations (220-plus) have had their Safety Cases approved by HSE.
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