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North American Regulators Working Group on Safety Culture – Annual Meeting in Washington, DC


9 January 2017

The North American Regulators Working Group on Safety Culture held its 4th annual meeting from 13-14 December in Washington, DC. The meeting was attended by representatives from the United States’ Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the United States’ Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, and Canada’s National Energy Board. Discussions highlighted shared interests regarding the use of safety culture indicators across industry and regulatory agencies, the development of safety culture capacity and competency building, and the role of contractor safety culture in operations. Working Group members also discussed regulator safety oversight culture and its influences on safety and environmental protection.

These important discussions were informed by three relevant presentations to members by the National Academy of Science (NAS) and the United States’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NAS representative shared recommendations from the recently released report entitled Strengthening the Safety Culture of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry.  The NRC presented the agency’s journey and role in the oversight of safety culture in the nuclear industry. Additionally, NRC representatives discussed the regulator’s effort to develop a robust internal culture of safety to support its mission.

Working Group Priorities

In 2015, two priorities for the regulators’ joint technical working group on safety culture were established. The priorities reflected shared interest in the evaluation of cultural strengths and weaknesses across industry and consideration of how regulator’s safety oversight culture may impact safety and environmental protection. During the annual meeting, technical working group members provided a status report on their efforts.

Safety Culture Indicators - Recognizing the benefit of creating a learning culture by sharing information as broadly as possible, the Working Group released its research report on safety culture indicators publicly in April 2016.  Working group members continue to analyze the suite of indicators in order to determine how they may be employed in the future to identify signals of cultural strength and weakness.

Regulator Safety (Oversight) Culture – Recognizing that a regulator’s organizational culture may also influence the safety system, a white paper was commissioned to explore the emerging concept of regulator safety (oversight) culture. Additional research is being conducted in order to develop a framework and model, which would inform future evaluation of regulatory culture.

In addition to the two existing priorities, the Working Group members identified an additional area of focus for 2017: the development of safety culture competency and capacity amongst regulatory staff. The Working Group members agreed that there is an opportunity for agency members to collaborate on the development of future training initiatives, coaching, mentoring and piloting of safety culture tools.

Finally, the Working Group acknowledged that contractors perform many critical operational activities in the petroleum sector. As a result, these organizations and their respective cultures are an important part of industry efforts to improve safety and environmental protection outcomes. The Working Group is considering hosting a workshop to explore this important topic with operators, contractors, and industry associations in 2017.

Next Annual Meeting

The North American Regulators Working Group on Safety Culture will hold their next annual meeting in Fall 2017.

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