The federal government on Wednesday moved to fill a major gap in overseeing the safety of offshore oil and gas development, by pledging to develop a system for tracking near-miss incidents that could be a harbinger of bigger problems.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said they would collaborate on the project, with the goal of getting a new confidential reporting system online within a year.
The decision follows a series of incidents at oil and gas facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, including a gas well blowout in July and a fatal platform fire last November.
“The system will expand the ability of (the safety bureau) and industry to capture essential information about accident precursors and potential hazards associated with offshore operations,” the agency said in a statement. “The confidential near miss reports will save lives, reduce injuries, and help prevent potentially devastating environmental events on the outer continental shelf.”
Gulf of Mexico: Accidents show depth of danger in shallow waters
The move dovetails with recommendations from the Chemical Safety Board and the presidential commission that probed the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which said offshore drillers’ focus on individual worker injuries can blind them to warning signs of more fundamental process safety problems.
Collecting data about close calls offshore — those unexpected incidents that didn’t cause injuries but might have — can help regulators and industry identify problems with equipment or practices and proactively fix them across the board.
Other sectors and federal regulators already harvest information about narrow escapes. For instance, the air industry has been collecting near-miss data from pilots in the cockpit, air traffic controllers and other aviation workers for more than three decades. That safety reporting