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 Health , Safety and Employment  (HSE) in the Petroleum industry

Ensuring high levels of health and safety with the petroleum workplaces of New Zealand is paramount.

The cornerstone health and safety legislation for NZ workplaces (including the Petroleum industry) is the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act).


About the HSE Act

The HSE Act promotes excellence in the management of health and safety in places of work and defines the duties of employers, principals of a contract, the self-employed, and employees. 

As a petroleum explorer or developer the HSE Act applies to any area that is considered a work place such as a drilling rig, seismic survey operation area or an area of geological mapping. 

The Act governs all places of work onshore and offshore out to New Zealand’s 12-nautical mile limit.  Beyond the 12-mile limit places of work are governed by the Maritime Transport Act 1994

Generally the HSE Act covers people in all places of work, except for some including:

  • crew of ships – health and safety comes under the maritime safety legislation; and
  • crew of aircraft – their safety is covered by air transport legislation.

The HSE Act is administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), espcially the High Hazard Unit. Regional offices are appointed to oversee the principles of the Act. MBIE have inspectors based at their offices to inspect places of work to ensure they are operating in accordance with the Act. An inspector dedicated to the Petroleum industry based in their New Plymouth regional office.


HSE Regulations

Specific to the petroleum industry there are also two regulations under the HSE Act that apply to petroleum exploration, extraction and pipelines:

Health and Safety in Employment (Pipelines) Regulations 1999

The Health and Safety in Employment (Pipelines) Regulations came into force on 11 November 1999 and deals with matters relating to health and safety in the operation of pipelines.

Health and Safety in Employment (Petroleum Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 1999

The Health and Safety in Employment (Petroleum Exploration and Extraction) Regulations 1999 came into effect on 11 November 1999 deals with matters relating to health and safety in the operation of installations for petroleum exploration and extraction.

Refinements to the regulations which will come into force during 2013 are detailed here

New Drilling Rule Introduced - September 2011

MBIE has introduced a new drilling rule and requests that operators voluntarily adopt this (adapted) Drilling Safety Rule from this summer’s drilling season (from September 2011). They also recommend that operators and inspection bodies regard this rule as part of the evolving accepted industry practice for safety in relation to wellbore integrity and well control equipment.

The primary purpose of the Drilling Safety Rule is to clarify and incorporate safeguards that will decrease the likelihood of a blowout occurring during drilling operations. The safeguards address wellbore integrityand well control equipment, and the Drilling Safety Rule focuses on these two overarching issues.

For details on the new drilling rule click here


Linkages between HSE Act with Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO)

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) provides for the protection of the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms.   

The HSNO Act is the major legislation controlling the import, manufacture, use and handling of hazardous substances in New Zealand.

The HSNO Act applies to the whole New Zealand territory, hence includes the area out to the 200-nautical mile limit. 

There is a strong relationship between the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) and the HSNO Act because hazardous substances are often found in work places.

Substances used by petroleum explorers and developers (during exploration, development, transportation, storage and shipping) that may be affected by the HSNO Act include:

  • lubrication oils;
  • acids, solvents;
  • fuels;
  • drilling chemicals;
  • explosives;
  • contaminated and used water;
  • liquid desiccants; and
  • oil spill dispersants.

MBIE is also the appropriate contact to seek HSNO guidance.


Formation of the High Hazards Unit

The establishment of a High Hazards unit, announced by the Government, August 2011, acknowledges that some industries have inherent and signficant higher levels of risks or hazards, even when managed by highly motivated and saftey-conscious operators. These include the petroleum and the mining industries.

Although the petroleum industry has demonstrated attention to safety, and has excellent HSE trackrecords, and the risk of failure whilst rare, can have a catastrophic impact.

The initiatives to improve the Department's approach to high hazard industries have included.

  • Formation of National High Hazard Unit
  • Enhancement of capacity and capability to deal with hazards.
  • Increasing personnel with more inspectors specifically to deal with petroleum and mining.
  • Dedicating greater attention to certification, verification, plans & notifications  e.g. establishing a national standard for petroleum installation inspection bodies
  • Strengthening relationships e.g. with third party inspection bdies, HSE reps, NOPSA, operators, Govt departments.
  • Boster the analysis of safety cases
  • Help high hazard industries to comply
  • Support environmental outcomes and regulations