The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Safety Management and Deep Water Drilling

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 3, 2012

Here’s the Center for Offshore Safety’s Charlie Williams, telling a CSIS forum this week about industry’s continuing effort to make drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as safe as possible:

“The mission here is to promote the highest level of safety – and it’s through effective leadership, communication, teamwork, safety management systems and independent third-party auditing of these systems.”

The center is a growing repository of information, which Williams described as the foundation for responsible operating plans as well as safety and environmental management systems or SEMS. Information is generated, compiled and communicated to industry members. Independent audits of each company’s SEMS determine if there are any gaps in systems and programs designed to prevent accidents. Williams:

"It’s a 'sustainable way to do safety because safety is built into the way you work.'”

More Williams:

“If you look at these high-consequence, low-probability events, (for) those kinds of events the key mechanism to reduce the likelihood is really your safety management systems. … There has to be this right balance between managing your work processes and managing your personnel safety.”

Williams again:

“If you look at all the discussions around these low-probability, high-consequence events the concerns that people have about those are your ability to learn from them and your ability to sustain the learnings over time and really, how do you create new learnings that help you in preventing these future major incidents? … SEMS actually does that.”

Williams was joined on the CSIS panel by James Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), Statoil’s Svein Erik Eide and Elgie Holstein of the Environmental Defense Fund. Former federal offshore regulator Michael Bromwich moderated.

Watson praised Williams and the center he leads as executive director. Watson said BSEE is focused on efforts including real-time monitoring of drilling activity and establishing “barriers” to potential incidents – such as the SEMS Williams described – as well as response plans to lessen the impact if an incident occurs.


“We’re committed to enhancing our decision-making process by using science-based risk analysis to identify the areas of greatest concern as well as those areas where we can make the biggest difference through mitigation efforts.”

Industry is committed to safe and responsible offshore drilling. The Center for Offshore Safety collects information, helps develop actionable knowledge and assists deep water operators in executing their safety and environmental management systems. Offshore drilling safety is a combination of prevention, intervention and response, as detailed in the infographic below:


“Industry is dedicated to the fact safety infrastructure isn’t competitive. People don’t want to compete in the safety space.”

Statoil’s Eide:

“We will share all of our experiences. It’s really our license to operate, that we can prove that we can take care of our environmental footprint...We have to work to minimize that risk at all times.”


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.