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September 18, 2013 12:06 ET

Tackling Process Safety in the Offshore Drilling World: The Operator and Service Provider

Interview With David Munzenmaier, HSE&S Director GOM, Baker Hughes

HOUSTON, TX--(Marketwired - Sep 18, 2013) -  Though new regulations have changed the way offshore companies operate, the need to make safety part of an enterprise sustainability management strategy has never been more important. As accountability moves higher up the chain of command, operators are coming under increasing pressure to place an emphasis on HSE -- especially with regard to human factors and workforce training. At the same time, juggling compliance efforts with daily safety concerns has forced a re-thinking of how to evaluate SEMS and training systems for overall safe operation and to drive strategic decisions.

David Munzenmaier, HSE&S Director GOM at Baker Hughes, recently spoke with marcus evans about key topics to be discussed at the upcoming 3rd Annual Offshore Safety & Workforce Capability Assurance Conference, October 2-4, 2013, in Houston. All responses represent the view of Mr. Munzenmaier and not necessarily those of Baker Hughes and its subsidiaries.

What is your intake on the current relationship between the operator and service provider?

DM: It is complicated. The operator is ultimately accountable to the regulator for their lease. But in many cases, the operator relies on contractors and service providers to do the work. Because they are accountable, the operators want all their contractors to perform at the same level. But each contractor will have their own processes and equipment. 

This would not be difficult if each service provider was working with a single operator. But we don't and each operator has slightly different processes. In turn, the service providers have to have internal processes that we are comfortable with and bridge those processes to each operator; and in some cases, each organization within an operator's company.

Of course the reverse is true for the operators. They are managing relationships with all tier service providers; who each do things slightly differently.

What are some recommendations or methods you have seen to better support operators' compliance from a service provider perspective and vice versa?

DM: The single most important aspect to compliance is communication. We (BHI) have bridging documents with all our OCS customers. They drive safety performance as well as compliance but they are only good if we all look at them and use them. If the team on the rig has not seen or does not understand the relationship written into the bridging document, there is a gap. At a minimum, this can cause NPT while we sort out the issue. In the worst case, it can lead to a catastrophic failure to control the well.

How can organizations ensure that the best vendors are on the platform and in line with all SEMS requirements?

DM: First you have to identify those vendors who are already working in the environment. It sounds like a good old boy club, but the OCS is not the place to learn -- you must have experience. Second, you have to have a business partner who understands the regulatory environment and their role in safety performance and compliance. On the operator side, this includes listening to the vendors. A service provider with a "we'll just do what you tell us to do" attitude probably doesn't understand the magnitude of what needs to be done to perform.

Why is it critical for operations to integrate modules, checklists, and accreditation prerequisites for drilling operators?

DM: This goes back to communication. If we are integrating (or bridging) our processes, we all know what is required. A good example is the current state of Stop Work Authority. We all know what it means within our companies and "THINK" we know what it means to everyone working around us.

Accreditation is a different matter. There has to be traceability and verification that the people and equipment are qualified and fit for purpose. It is remarkable that it has taken so long for our industry to understand the necessity of insuring our workforce is competent and the linkage between competences at all levels and protecting the integrity of the wellbore.

How can organizations continue to improve their communication from the operator level up to the executive level?

DM: Unfortunately, everything that goes up to the executive level must be filtered. There is too much information (financial, performance, regulatory, safety, etc.) for any executive to manage, so they must rely on their team and the layers below the executive must understand this.

The real key to performance is that middle level of the management layer. That is where things get done. The executive's primary responsibility is making sure they have the right middle management team in place and holding that team accountable.

What would attendees gain by attending this event?

DM: Hopefully, an attendee will leave the event with a better understanding of the need for communication and how that communication ties directly to safety and the protection of the wellbore. Our industry is just learning to share. On the service side, we still look at process safety and wellbore protection as competitive advantages. That should not be the case. We have an obligation to protect people and the environment as well as our companies, and any event that impacts the former, will damage all of us.

David Munzenmaier is currently the Director, Health, Safety, Environment and Security for Baker Hughes Gulf of Mexico Geomarket. Prior to joining the Geomarket, David held various HSE positions in Baker Hughes as well as Directing the Enterprise Crisis Management function from 2007 through 2010. David has experience as a regulator with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and he spent nine years in the commercial nuclear power industry. David earned his undergraduate degree in Industrial Hygiene from the University of Houston - Clear Lake and his Masters in Hazardous and Waste Material Management from Southern Methodist University.

The marcus evans 3rd Annual Offshore Safety & Workforce Capability Assurance Conference will take place in Houston, October 2-4, 2013. For more details, view the Conference Agenda.

For more information, please contact Tyler Kelch, Marketing Coordinator, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-894-6377 or

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