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December 3, 1999
(Mines and Energy)

Minister clarifies offshore safety regime

Mines and Energy Minister Roger Grimes said today: "Everyone recognizes that the offshore is a harsh and sometimes dangerous work environment. It is for this reason that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and its offshore regulator, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, place the utmost importance on protecting the health and safety of the men and women working in our offshore.

"Recent public comments have suggested that the C-NOPB lacks adequate mechanisms to ensure companies provide a safe work environment for their employees. Specifically, it has been suggested that the C-NOPB's only avenue in addressing a health and safety concern is the retraction of a company's licence to operate in the offshore. This statement is incorrect. As minister of mines and energy, I am compelled to set the record straight and to reassure workers and their loved ones that there are many options available to the C-NOPB to ensure a safe work environment in the offshore."

Minister Grimes, then, explained the various options available to the C-NOPB in ensuring compliance:

  • Every offshore work or activity requires a work authorization from the C-NOPB. Compliance with the draft Petroleum Occupational Safety and Health Regulations - Offshore Newfoundland is an explicit condition of every work authorization.

  • The Accord Act empowers the C-NOPB to designate offshore safety officers to ensure compliance with health and safety issues. These officers have the power to cease operations if, in their opinion, the operations being conducted are likely to result in a serious safety hazard for workers. This authority is similar to the authority of provincial safety officers with respect to requiring the suspension of work where there is an immediate safety or health concern.

  • Where the C-NOPB has reason to believe a company is failing or has failed to meet a condition of their work authorization (including those relating to health and safety), or a requirement under the Accord Act or its regulations, it may give notice requiring the company to comply with that condition or requirement.

  • The C-NOPB may suspend or revoke a work authorization where a company does not comply with a condition of their work authorization or a requirement under the Accord Act or its regulations.

  • Furthermore, every person is guilty of an offence who contravenes a condition of their work authorization, the Accord Act or its regulations, and is liable to full prosecution under the Accord Act.

  • Ultimately, failure to comply may result in cancellation of the offending company's petroleum rights.

"Under the Accord Act, a range of enforcement options is available to the C-NOPB, not solely the retraction of an operating licence as has been recently suggested," said Minister Grimes. "While I am confident this approach provides the necessary powers for enforcement, I am committed to working with my federal counterpart, Minister Goodale, provincial Environment and Labour Minister Oliver Langdon, the C-NOPB, industry and other stakeholders to further enhance provisions to ensure a safe working environment in the offshore. The public should know that we view the men and women working in our offshore as our most precious resource."

Media contact: Carl Cooper, Director of Communications, (709) 729-4890.

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