Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Brian Salerno cited 12 offshore operators for their failure to demonstrate compliance with the Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) requirements of the Workplace Safety Rule, 30 CFR Subpart S. The SEMS requirements were put in place in October 2010, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Per the regulations, offshore operators were required to complete an initial SEMS audit by November 15, 2013.
"An effective, fully implemented SEMS program is essential to reducing risks across offshore operations," said Director Salerno. “BSEE must be assured that companies are addressing the key elements of SEMS and that they are not needlessly putting their workers and the environment at risk. We will vigorously enforce compliance with this fundamental requirement."
Beginning Nov. 16, Director Salerno directed five companies to halt operations because they failed to provide the Bureau an audit plan and completed audit by the Nov. 15 regulatory deadline, calling into question whether they have implemented a SEMS program. The companies were given three days to reach a safe point in their operations before ceasing work. While most of the companies are conducting plugging and abandonment or other decommissioning activities, the elements of a SEMS program are applicable to all offshore operations. The Bureau has determined that the impact of this enforcement action on Gulf of Mexico production is minuscule.
Seven additional companies submitted audit plans that were in compliance with regulations, but failed to complete the audits before the Nov. 15 deadline. Those companies have been directed to immediately provide BSEE with a copy of their SEMS program; have the company Chief Executive Officer certify, under penalty of perjury, that their company has implemented the SEMS program; and complete their SEMS audit without further delay. BSEE may take other enforcement measures, including the assessment of civil penalties for each day of non-compliance, if operators do not meet these requirements.
The Bureau took these actions only after repeated notifications via email and letters 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 Bureau 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.
Eighty-four operators were subject to the Nov. 15, audit deadline, and 72 completed an initial audit. BSEE will analyze the audit reports and work with companies to ensure their corrective action plans adequately address noted deficiencies and provide for continuous improvement across all offshore operations.
BSEE's predecessor agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), published the Workplace Safety Rule in October 2010, requiring offshore oil and gas operators to develop and maintain a SEMS program. The SEMS program is designed to reduce the risks of accidents, injuries and spills that occur in connection with offshore oil and gas exploration and development activities on the Outer Continental Shelf.