Q&A with Roald Gunnar Riise: Managing Risks

8 September 2009 (Last Updated September 8th, 2009 18:30)

What does it take to fully understand and manage risk? Roald Gunnar Riise, vice-president HSE, describes the tools StatoilHydro employs to assess the risks involved in its processes, create effective barriers by truly understanding those risks, and make good use of data to manage each element.

Q&A with Roald Gunnar Riise: Managing Risks

World Expro: Can you tell us about your role in StatoilHydro's risk management process?

Roald Gunnar Riise: I'm in the management team responsible for health, safety and the environment (HSE), and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the social aspects of our activities.

My role is to give advice and challenge our procedures in order to keep competencies and key personnel as up-to-date as possible. I also assist the business in operating in a safe and efficient way, and with the integrity that we want to have as a company.

I have to ensure that we have the right people in the right jobs, and that they are making the most of their skills and talents within the different areas of the business.

We must also use people as effectively as we can to make sure our projects and business in general are as effective as possible.

How does StatoilHydro's risk assessment system operate?

We've developed new assessment methodology that makes us able to see risk more clearly, even in the early stages of a project. It systematically defines and identifies risk and then tests it, evaluates the possibilities to reduce it and controls the risk so that we can fully understand it from a holistic standpoint.

Even when we approach a new project, from the very start we are deciding whether to stop or go further and if so, what direction we should be advancing in. This ensures we have a good understanding of the risk from the get-go.

We are then confident that we are able to manage the risk successfully. This systematic approach is new to us.

We create a workshop and bring in people in with different competencies and expertise. The results of the workshop are then documented in a way that we can present to the management.

"We've developed new assessment methodology that makes us able to see risk more clearly, even in the early stages of a project."

Do you have a holistic set of regulations that provides the basic starting point for each project within the bespoke system?

Yes, if we have a project in a designated country then of course we explore it, get to know it and have an overview of the local regulation of that country. The specific problems could be environmental or social – or anything, really.

We get an overview of health, security, political and social issues, and we put all that into this workshop. We then put together the people who have the knowledge, locally and centrally, and then we work on the risks connected to that location based on the knowledge that's collectively in the room.

Since using the new system, have you seen a reduction in accidents?

We only started this programme in late 2008, so it's a bit early to measure. It's also difficult to measure its direct effectiveness, because it's used to identify risk, and projects take time to get up and running.

When we choose the concept and solutions we expect to see the results when we get into the operations of the project.

We will hopefully have fewer problems and see benefits on the economic side of it.

Of course, we have other means of managing risk, in daily operations where we conduct skills training with operational managers.

This is very much a complementary system for early phase risk assessment. It's completely new; we didn't have anything like that before.

Why did you see the need to change the system as a whole? Is it because projects are becoming more far-flung, geographically, or did you see a rise in accidents?

It wasn't a rise in accidents; it was to make our system better and take a step in a new direction. But, yes, it is because we're expanding into new areas in the world that have a more complex risk picture, so to feel really secure we needed to have even more thorough assessments.

What system did you have in place before last year?

We appointed an HSE representative. We asked that person to assess the risks and, of course, it became much more individual because if that person had an environmental background they would focus on the environmental risk, and if they had a health background they would be focussed on health risk.

"We're expanding into new areas in the world that have a more complex risk picture, so to feel really secure we needed to have even more thorough assessments."

We didn't feel that we had a completely holistic approach before so now it's a more collective risk assessment.

Your CEO mentioned in the annual review that the company is keen to move staff around to different locations across the world to make sure you're getting the most out of them and that they don't become stagnated in their job. Does this cause a problem when trying to ensure they are trained in the relevant fields?

It doesn't cause a problem, but you're quite right in that we have to be mindful of that. We must have good development plans for people; each individual in this company should have a development plan and a leader.

That is for everyone, whether they're in Canada or in Indonesia or in Norway, so when we take people out from Norway and move them to other locations it's part of their personal development plan – as long as they have the skills that are needed for that particular job. Of course, we try to match the person's needs with the company's needs and we never compromise on the quality: if they don't have the skills they are given more training to make sure they are the most suitable person for the job.

What issues do you face when moving staff to places that are relatively unknown in comparison to working on the Norwegian Shelf?

There are security and also health service considerations for personnel. When moving into areas with diseases that we're not used to, we have to prepare by looking at their healthcare systems.

There's also the environmental aspect.

We could be in the middle of the desert or the jungle, we might be very close to sensitive environmental areas like natural parks, or it could be purely safety-related things, like we're taking over a facility that doesn't have the standards we would like.

So you have to update it to your specifications?

Yes, and then you have to understand the risk involved, to discover to what degree we have to upgrade it. The more complex it becomes, the more systematic the approach needs to be.

Do you inspect your sites regularly to make sure all the rules and regulations that you have laid down are being maintained?

"We create a workshop and bring in people in with different competencies and expertise"

We have a monitoring system by which we audit for certifications. We check that the rules are followed and that goes for all our internal procedures as well as the local procedures.

We also follow up the mitigating activities that we agreed on in the workshop so we are constantly learning more about the risks. This helps the projects evolve and detail the risk picture as we go along.

What projects have you used this system on?

I can't say which, but we've used it on 25 projects over the last year, from Canada in the west to Indonesia in the east. We use it whenever we think it's pertinent and that's more or less all the time.

This is the system that we think is best in order to get a good picture of the risk.

Is senior management receptive to your activities?

They really understand the concept. They want to understand the full extent of the risk and how we are going to control it if they make the decision to move forward with the project.

The results help give management a deeper understanding of the HSE risks and they take it extremely seriously.

So is this the first port of call for them when looking at new projects? Are they as keen to understand it as you are to explain it?

That is correct and sometimes you will choose not to go there, or you will choose different solutions because you think the risk is too high. Part of this risk assessment process is to find what is acceptable and what isn't.

Then you discuss it with management – and now we have a better tool to do that.

We have the best tool to get management involved and understand the risk involved. Now we have the opinion of the whole team rather than one risk assessment individual.

We put together the best knowledge we can so it's a much more holistic and realistic assessment.