The inherent safety approach is the best option for hazard/risk management in offshore oil and gas activities. Some of the main drivers for inherent safety in the offshore industry are to reduce manning levels and provide minimum facilities installations, encourage the use of compact and simple technology, and reduce the need for operators to be present. Though this approach is comparatively mature and has been widely accepted in onshore process industries, its applications in offshore industries are still limited. A recent pilot study to assess the extent to which the concept and principles of inherent safety are being applied in the development and design of offshore oil and gas installations revealed that the term inherent safety is only just beginning to be recognized in the industry, mainly as a result of its inclusion in the Design Safety Case Guidance, and the UKOOA Fire and Explosion Hazard Management Guide. There appears to be a number of subtle but significant differences of opinion as to what inherent safety is, including ‘hazard avoidance’, ‘hazard prevention’, ‘risk minimization’, and ‘good engineering’. While all of these may form part of an inherently safer strategy, they do not encompass a full understanding of the role of inherent safety. This paper discusses inherent safety in offshore oil and gas activities and presents methods to evaluate inherent safety potential. It also highlights areas for further research.

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