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Topic 31: Prescriptive case, Safety case and the future of Legislation

michael saiki's picture

Like we have established, health, safety and environmental legislation regimes have always been as a result of major accidents. The only time there is the need for new legislation is when there is a major accident. this is rather a faulty pivot for legislation formation because there is no single accident sequence that would ever repeat itself in thesame way. Why is it not possible to achieve a more robust model.

By robust model why cant we have a legislation that would share responsibilities between the regulator and the operators because we have established that industry standards is no standards Petrobras P36 which failed although the CEO spoke confidently of the fact that allowing the industry to determine what her standards is actually the best mode.

what is the future of Legislation, what areas should the industry and regulator be  looking at to further optimize the present safety model?


Richard Sedafor's picture


A prescription is the enforcement of rulesgoverning how a system, language, or activity should be conducted. Example in Brazil the fire safety codes are based on the prescriptive approach. Also prescriptive codes for buildings specifies construction requirements according to particular materials and construction methods. Prescriptive methods or cases are always contrasted against performance codes. Whilst the former is more proactive the later is reactive.

safety and risk management legislations and regulations have mostly come as a result of accidents that have happened in industry. Reports and investigations into these accidents inform the laws and regulations that are put in place to ensure that those accidents dont re-occur. This is particulary useful because most equipements that are made in most industries are the improvement of other older technologies and therefore with this regulations in mind, accidents that older equipement have caused are not likely to re-occur because designers and engineers would have taken those into consideration. In the prescriptive sense, this is limited. The rules are already set and you cant go beyound it.

Prescriptive fire codes in brazil has shown significant failures to raise questions on its reliability to provide fire safety as it should have. Many nations in europe have changed their fire codes from prescriptive fire codes to performance based fire codes and its fairly been successful.

The future legislations of Safety should be Performance based rather than prescriptive. Nature and evolution itself teaches us that we learn better from our mistakes. The efficiency of these performance base legislations is what must be critically looked at and developed.



Rodrigo Machado Tavares, prescriptive codes Vs. performance based codes:which one is the best fire safety code for the brazilian context

Jeff Bryson, Prescriptive Requirement Analysis


Elvis.E.Osung's picture

Mike, I totally agree with you. The oil and gas industry has been through different phases in safety legislations. The legislative regime seems to be quite static while everyday new processes and technology exceeds the scope of operation for which prescriptive legislations where made to cover. Rather than taking a reactive approach waiting for accidents to occur before setting the bar higher, legislations governing safety should be dynamic in following the trends in technology closely towards making necessary additions and modifications to incorporate the risks associated in this processes and come up with appropriate regulations and legislations. With the increasing demand for energy, the oil and gas industry will go beyond formally perceived limits to meet this demand, the legislative regime should be robust enough to follow this fast pace and create a fair balance and not just rely on industry standards.

michael saiki's picture

Yea Elvis just to further clarify what we have been saying, that there is need for increased participation by regulators with the operators. We all know that Oil and gas Eploration & Production started in USA and they still appear to be the most advanced sector in the world, but Why is America still operating the prescriptive legislation, we would ask? It is obvious managing risk has a direct impact on Revenue and Profits. Regulators know the dangers of allowing companies self determination(Safety case) especially in a Capitalist economy . In as much as I know the prescriptive case is insufficient a legislation I also know that the safety case though more effective than Prescriptive case should be advanced. Right now regulator dont take responsibility.

Remember the event we attended " Post Maccondo the lessons learnt from the incident"The presenter ourightly said the regulators don't seem interested. The UK sector of the industry solution or response OSPRAG gave as a proactive measure aimed at preventing a similar to maccondo incident from happening or minimizing the impact incase it happens i.e. the capping regulators are not interested in such a proactive step because the incident has not happened here.

In conclusion HSE must share in the responsibility if safety must be improved

Michael Saiki

Tony Morgan's picture

Sorry Michael but i totally disagree on a couple of points.....

1. USA certainly do not appear to me to be the most advanced in the world

In what way exactly..........I would offer Norway and STATOIL as being at the forefront of word oil development with their subsea processing developments  technology

UK and Norway for their HSE and Pollution controls and commitments via OSPAR for example.

Norway for its protection of workers time regulations and care of employees

Norway for its standards developments NORSOK /DNV / OLF etc which are still at the forefront and providing publications access FREE to all in the most part ( unlike nearly all US organisations) in the promotion of best practice and an ethos of learning and development for the good of all. with objective of "Safeguarding life, property, and the environment".

UK for its general and continued provision of technical expert services and adoption of new technologies through university and randd programmes with industry especially oil and gas and its contribution to Global developments.

2. OSPRAG consisted of Operators and [1]


I do agree that joint initiatives such as OSPRAG between Operators and regulators can only be a good things for safety and that this should be expanded to include sub-systems suppliers throughout the supplychain but especially for site operators/ rig/ platform / site owners  since their people are in the danger zone.

I do believe that there are losts of examples of regulators being pro-active though .....i guess it is very easy to criticise.

tony morgan

Richard Sedafor's picture


I agree with Elvis and Mike, the reactive responses of the legislature instead of the proactive response despite improvements in technology is not really helping. Many of the policies and safety measures are based on accidents that have occured. these accidents have often taken the lives of many people.

Indeed they can not be a system that is totally safe. And the cost of Safety to any company is very high but the value of human life is more higher. If we dont take proactive measures towards safety many experienced professionals who will impart the young generation will die as a result of disasters..

I recommend that the Government put in massive investment into the activities of the Regulatory body HSE. In the Long run these investments will pay of in better returns. It is normal for a business man to reduce the amount of investment into taking care of the safety issues of the company since every business man is in for profit. But the regulator must be empowered so that the businessmen and managers are put in check.

faizakhatri's picture

I agree with  michael  that legislation mostly come as a outcome of accident  to protect others  and reduce Possibility of danger but before  occurence of accident there must be a  NEARMISS (an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so ) which may not reported  and because of  this little mistake bear a big loss so it is very important once any industry recieves “ Close call” they have to record , do Root Cause analysis and add suitable prevetive measure which ultimatley gives  safe work environment i belive in SAFETY FIRST concept and  it is employer responsibility  to ensure, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employee and make it  practicable for safety improvement  and must do Obey prsescriptive legislation which include  complete  guidance and specifies steps to be taken  for identify Risk and manage it by adding proper preventive measure  which comply with all kind of situation For example working at height  Falls from height are one of the main causes of death in the workplace. When working at heights, fall protection is required, e.g. a full body harness with its lanyard attached to an adequate fixed installation or within guard rails  As such all necessary precautions must be put in place to protect employees. All equipment must be inspected before use and free from defects

Faiza Khatri

M.Sc Oil and Gas Engineering 


Olamide s Ajala's picture

@ micheal, I have a  different point of view from yours, the goal setting legislation(safety case regulation) which superseeds the prescriptive legislation is standard enough because it is prescriptive in process rather than in outcome, it will be very difficult for regulators who are human beings like us and not God to be able to forecast or tell the future of incident in oil and gas industry.That is why the goal setting legislation specifies principles rather than solution which are intended to encourage people to be innovative.
From my point of view a robust model will be a concept of  the mind, which we allow both the operator and regulator to percieve leglislation as a means to life  or way of life rather than just doing the work or following some sets of standards because they where mandated to do so.
The future of legislation will be to take safety as  a inexorable or preordained culture .

Claire Snodgrass's picture

Michael, I don't remember the quote "the regulators don't seem interested" from the Macondo talk - which speaker was this and what was the context?

I disagree that "regulators are not interested in such a proactive step because the incident has not happened here".

In fact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) formed the Deepwater Horizon Incident Review Group to review the learnings coming out of the investigations into the Macondo tragedy and the Montara oil spill in Australia. The review panel was chaired by and included independent persons with oil and gas experience and looked at how the recommendations from the investigations could be applied to the UK and whether there were improvements that could be made to the UK's regulatory regime (DECC, 2011).

I believe this shows that the UK regulators are proactive as they are not waiting for an accident to happen in the UK before acting. Instead they look to learn the lessons from others and apply them in the UK to improve safety and environmental protection.

Reference: DECC (2011). Offshore oil and gas in the UK: an independent review of the regulatory regime [Online]. Available at [Accessed 28th October 2012].

mohamed.elkiki's picture

From what I understand, it’s all related to ALARP because as the dr. from HSE explained on the diagram, each company compare risk with cost. Therefore, if already percentage of risk is low and no accident happened why they bother by taking percussion from something may happen. Also, in Uk there is a lot of legislation and laws that check on safety so companies don’t need more things that make them pay more as they already get profit with paying less. The only thing that can push them to your idea Michael is when something like Maccondo happen here in UK but i don’t think this can happen because legislation here are more strong than in USA and there is always someone who go and check for facilities not like what happened in Maccondo which even no one was checking on BOP to see if it work or not until they face the blowout. Anyway, there are a lot of lessons that companies in everywhere not only in UK learned from the incident of Maccondo and I am sure there is a lot of safety percussions that added from both companies and governments to ensure safe environment because it is bad for reputation and loss of money

Lee Soo Chyi's picture


Learn from the past. This is the traditional way of developing safety regime or regulation where past events lead to new knowledge and standards. Major disaster becomes the trigger to update regulations and establish new regulations. For example, Piper Alpha, Deepwater Horizon, etc. In my opinion, industry and regulators do not regularly revise and update procedures, rules and regulations until something ‘serious and devastating’ happen. DNV (2010) says that the current safety regime in USA is based on prescriptive regulation while UK and Norwegian are based on performance-based type where risk assessments or safety case must be presented to authorities for review and acceptance. A prescriptive approach in offshore safety regime has the advantage of being relatively easy to understand and simple to implement and follow up. The downside is it may not prevent new types of accident that may appear in the future. It may also prevent innovation due to its specific and perceptive rules. Hence, operator tends to follow whatever is written in the regulation rather than take more proactive initiatives to increase the safety level beyond compliance. DNV (2010) also recommends that safety case for offshore operation must be introduced in the future regulation so that all risks are evaluated throughout the lifetime of the offshore drilling, production activities, including design, construction, installation, operations, maintenance, modifications and decommissioning. 


DNV (2010) ‘Key aspects of an effective U.S. Offshore Safety Regime’, Det Norske Veritas: position paper [Online]. Available at [Accessed 30 October 2012].



Soo Chyi, Lee

Abdulazeez Bello's picture


A robust
safety system: what The EU should do
Robust regulation as regard to how safety is conducted in the industry will be
quite challenging to embark on though it worth trying. This it is evident
especially in the comparative study of the offshore safety regime between
Norway, England and the United States. The study shows the complexity of the various
regulatory regimens and the need to develop regulations that have legitimacy
which can be handled by all parties involved. Hence EU's laudable aim of contributing
to a safer industry (oil and gas) could best be achieved by binding the members
to an EU directive with the objectives of the result to be achieved, based on
best international industry practices. A detail-focused regulation will provide
a more complicated set of rules for the Norwegian and UK shelf and create
unclear roles and relationships between national authorities, parties and trade
unions especially with the evolution of technology.
Lindoe, P., Engen. O., (2012). Offshore safety regimes – a contested terrain.
Working on safety 2012, Poland


From Macondo accident, we saw prescriptive
regime is less effective than performance-based regime. Any accident case is happened,
Industry should analyzed the case and prepare mitigation / remediation plan for
exposed risk for better performance. Capping device and reviewing remediation
plan for oil-spill was one of them. But sometimes prescriptive regime, drive by
government, could be more effective way to protect safety.

Safety issues can be categorized into 3
types; occupational health and safety, environment, technical safety. [1] Occupational
and Technical safety could be responsible for operators. They take the risk for
their field and have to improve their performance in work site regards with
safety and hence performance-based regime could be a good choice.

On the other hand, environmental safety is
cared by government not individual company. Environment is for public use and
impact from contamination is extraordinary. Shell had announced Brent spar
disposal plan, dump to sea, with UK government support at 1995. But this plan
was collapsed by NGO and other countries’ objection. Shell changed original
plan with recycle at onshore. Company considers public benefit but work for
profit basically. When confliction is arisen between public and private
benefit, it is hard to say that company will choose public benefit always.

Conclusively, safety issue closely related
with public interest like environmental safety should be regulated by
government strictly.



[1] Lindoe, P., Engen. O., (2012). Offshore
safety regimes – a contested terrain. Working on safety 2012, Poland





Foivos Theofilopoulos's picture

There is one issue that I do not see anyone addressing so far in this debate. You are talking about changing legislation and safety standards like we are updating the software of a computer or a cellphone. I do not think that anyone here mentioned how difficult it is to actually make a piece of written word that can both stand as a law (which means that it is very difficult to challenge as interpretation) and at the same time be dynamic and allow for lenient compliance (as with goal-setting safety legislations). Also, creating and updating legislation is a process that takes a lot of time and resources and even then you have different power lobbies influencing the outcomes, because the update or new piece of legislation must be approved by the parliament.

So, even though (unfortunately) change only follows disasters, this is the way it had always been, with people inventing ways to bypass laws and the laws changing to deal with those ways. I am not saying that people go on purpose and break the safety laws, but I researched and could not find a case (not only in the oil&gas industry) where the laws for an action preceded the action itself.

adavis's picture

If it were possible to have a set of perfect regulations and laws, which its not, accidents would still happen.  Accidents aren't prevented by legislators or laws. They are prevented by individuals and groups of individuals working together to achieve a job in a safe manner. If you look at organizations with world class safety records, you'll find they don't advocate a top down approach with volumes of regulations or armies of regulators peering over each workers shoulder.  On the contrary, they normally advocate a bottom up approach in which employees are empowered to affect changes. Rather than looking at Safety from the top (i.e. governmental policy), I suggest the industry pick up the best practices from world class companies both inside and outside the industry.  The solution to our safety problems comes from the bottom not the top.

Igwe Veronica Ifenyinwa's picture


The Safety Case Regulations
presupposes that Duty Holders effect means of identifying and reducing risks
using the latest available technology, thus, it is expected that at each ten-year
revision, there will be recommendations made, although it is likely that they
will become less costly as time passes by in accordance with the regulations
prevalent thereat.

Some operators present
identical Safety Cases at the time of the ten-year review on the basis that
nothing has changed since their presentation of the last one. Patently this
cannot possibly be true, or if it is true then surely they cannot have applied
the latest technology in order to maintain risks at ALARP, which simply means:
"As Low As Reasonably Practicable."

Indeed, it seems to many
professional safety case practitioners that the pursuit of risk reduction in
terms of major accidents has been sacrificed due to the regulator's and therefore
the operator's tacit preoccupation with occupational hazards.

The propensity of the
HSE regulators to abide by the regulatory framework effected to have an
over-reaching and a broad-based reformatory guideline platform for stakeholders
in the nearest future is a desirable objective but the need to achieve the core
goals of the stakeholders will continually be a clog in the wheel of the
wholesome practicability and observance of the legislation.


Neil Fraser James Carr's picture

I’m not convinced that that is an accurate description of
the safety case review process which is every five years and is required to be
upgraded against regulatory and physical changes to the asset and its
management processes.


The aim of the recommendations within safety case is to show
that there is a justification for continued operation and through this
mechanism allow regulator to see the process and analysis process of these.


By providing a safety case an operator is showing its
commitment to operating safely, a transparent display of the threats and
controls in place for the work force involved and hopefully allowing the work
force to take ownership of their own safety case by involving safety
representatives and committees to be involved in the risk assessments and
analysis of the rig.


Finally I would like to agree with your statement about
occupational health, it seems that often this is the fore front of most safety initiatives
to stop slips, trips and falls etc, however it isn’t really to the detriment of
the safety case and this should be seen as an additional barrier, serious
offshore incidents are covered in emergency response manuals and are compliant with
pfeer regs. All incorporated into the safety case which I feel is a valuable
document as it is a significant goal setting achievement for most companies and
is used to really display the safety culture of the company.

Uko Bassey's picture

In my opinion, I will say that prescriptive legislation is rigid and does not give room for an effective change when necessary. Imagine Company A in USA following prescriptive in outcome method which specifies in clear terms the safety measures to be taken and it does not arrest the hazard or accident from occurring, what next? Are you allowed to work around it? Even if the answer is "yes", then some level of approval and authority will be required which does not look achievable in the face of emergency.

The same company A operating in Norway with goal setting (prescriptive in process) which specifies a proactive steps to be taken to identify hazard, assess the risks and select precautionary measures cannot face same challenge because they are responsible for the risk and will do everything possible to address it. Remember, no two events that are exactly the same and perhaps what is suitable for the event A might not be the case for event B hence "the rule of thumb" as it seems in prescriptive legislation does fit the industry safety requirements. Goal setting legislation is a more realistic approach to safety in the industry.

Uko Bassey

Deinyefa S. Ebikeme's picture

In my own view, Health and Safety legislative methods (general imposition of duties, licensing the activity and safety case) have been properly coined out to complement each other in addressing present and future risk events.  Going by the legislative models in place general standards (Prescriptive) are to be met for uniformity in addressing general known hazards in system designs, work environment etc. and also gives room for focus improvements to be made (goal-setting) around such systems to address future generated hazards. The aim is to suppress danger before they arise rather than guarding against risk which has been allowed to occur. The idea seems nice on written document but one of the major issues is the implementation and proactive follow-up (monitoring) of these prevention and control barriers (mitigation barriers). This can be achieved by effective cooperation and communication between the HSE and the operators for proper review of findings to accommodate emerging risks.Thus, the future legislation can be said to be a review and upgrade process of the present legislation.  
EG501D/EG50S1 HSE Lecture note - A brief history of health safety legislation. Deinyefa Stephen Ebikeme IBIYF


YAKUBU ABUBAKAR 51126107's picture

While I tend to agree with Ebikewe in some of his point, I still
want to point out a very serious issue safety legislations are prescriptive in
their nature and process that need to be updated over time as new hazards and
change in process are surfacing. So for me the prescriptive legislation is very
much for the future if it will be implemented professionally in a proactive

But the big challenge is whether the HSE and other
regulatory bodies all over the world would have the powers of implementing the
safety laws is another big task.  Simply
because most of the big oil and gas companies are fully supported by the politicians
in government that always cover them up and mess up the environment and nothing
happen to the detriment of the employee’s safety and the environment at large.
You can only hear of safety review only if a major accident happens.

This can only change going forward, if more proactive, robust,
powerful and fully independent safety legislation that can stamp its authority
and give directions and procedure in which oil and gas activities are carried
out safely and in an environmentally friendly manner.



REF:       J.S MUNRO,

Ike Precious C.'s picture

I will start by saying that whatever safety lesson we have ever learnt, either industry-based or at home, came from the occurence of an incident, accident or its like, whether there were casualties or not. There is no doubt that most of the Standards, Regulations etc were born out of a disaster which may not have been foreseen as at the time it happened.
In as much as the Prescriptive Case has its pitfalls in that it will only take care of a certain accident trend, as mentioned earlier, but we must not neglect that it still takes care of those accident trends for the fact that we do no here of them anymore is an indication of such.
On the other hand, while the Safety case has its advantage in analyzing the system based on its perfromance, it also tends to have novel technologies attached to it which is the last thing any Operator will want to hear - A Novel technology which has not been proven and for them to invest their money into what may or may not occur.
But I believe there has to be a harmonization of the Regulators and Operators if they intend to achieve success in safety of perseonnel and environment.

Thank you.

Abiaziem Davidson's picture

I agree with you Ike, Prescriptive case is a specific rules which defines technical solution and it is driven by accident history. Its standard is based on accidents and lesson learnt from accidents. Prescriptive is easy to determine whether the an organisation complying with the standards laid down for the carrying out an operation. it is not cost effective nor is it task effective.

Prescriptive case present measures in place to prevent major accidents and limit consequences by demonstrating that risks are as low as reasonable practicable. It demonstrates a systematic process in place to develop safety measures by providing writting reports or procedures on meeting fundamental duty.

The future legislation is performance oriented, it gives an organisation the power to define specific objective, nature of the technical solution is left to the operator and safety case concept fits well into this structure. It is potential for cost benefit decision making.

Samuel Bamkefa's picture

The question I will like us to ask ourselves first is: Why the change from presciptive to goal setting regulations in Europe in the first place? Definitely, the decision to  make the transition was not based on a whim and you don't fix what is not broke.

From the reccommendations of the Lord Cullens committee in 1990, after the Piper Alpha disaster, the prescriptive regime was falling short. It was too much of a template approach that did not consider the perculiarities of each proccesses they were applied to. It will be worthy of note that maintaining a prescriptive legislation in light of advancing technology will make the regulations to get outdated at a fast pace.

In the UK, it should be noted that legislation was not actually abolished, but was shifted from the Department of Energy to the independent Health and Safety Executive. This connotes that regulation was still present, but handled by a body with more objectivity. The only thing is that the operator was also put on the spot as well.

It is a different case if a company refuses to carry out the reccommended steps. That does not mean the law is not good. Thankfully, the Corporate manslaughter act is there to get the operators on their toes.
I personally don't see any reason why the prescriptive legislation should be reverted to. Emphasis should be on refining what is existing.

Samuel Bamkefa




SanjayVyas's picture

I feel there are some gaps both at regulator end and at Industry end. History of regulations clearly indicates notification of a new prescriptive type of regulation after occurance of major accident and it is unfortunate that HSE regulation needs accident to happen.

The main gap at regulator end probably is availability and familiarisation / or update of technical information that affects HSE performance of industry. Industries often have resource constraints in implementing measures for prevention and control of measures required to mitigate HSE risks.

These gaps can minimised by mutual trust and support between both the parties e.g. regulators participation in risk management excercise conducted by Industries. Concept of ALARP/BAT can be effective executed if it is acceptable and not enforced. Prescriptive regulation is essential in defining a boundary that an industry should never cross and industries should consider it as a starting point for their approach to manage HSE risks.-

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