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SEMS II rules announced to improve oil rig safety

Long shifts, heavy machinery and combustible chemicals all contribute to making the offshore oil and gas industry one of the most dangerous for workers. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill provided a vivid example to oil rig workers, the oil and gas industry, and the federal government of some of these dangers, prompting a renewed interest in offshore drilling safety.

Last week the United States Interior Department announced new requirements that are designed to help protect offshore employees. This demonstrates the federal government’s ongoing efforts to push maritime employers in the direction of safety protections for workers.

The rules, which are called Safety and Environmental Management Systems II regulations, will require offshore oil and gas operators to enact policies that allow any worker on a rig who witnesses unsafe conditions or activity to stop work on the rig.

The SEMS II rules build off existing regulations that were enacted two years ago. In 2011 operators were required to submit their own plans for procedures to prevent accidents. These regulations encourage operators to build a strong safety culture that makes workers feel empowered to prevent accidents and puts safety in everyone’s hands.

Another important step taken in the new regulations is the creation of guidelines for third party safety audits to be conducted on rigs. Those reports will be submitted to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a federal agency that focuses on preserving both safety and environmental sustainability in the offshore industry.

If you have been injured in the course of your employment on an offshore rig, on the shore or at sea you may have a claim for damages. It is wise to consult a maritime personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the relevant law and help you pursue any appropriate claims.

Source: Fox Business, “U.S. launches new ‘stop work’ rules for safety on oil rigs,” Ayesha Rascoe, April 4, 2013

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