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Occupational health and safety and labour issues

Health and safety

What health and safety regulations and procedures apply to oil and gas operations (upstream, midstream and downstream)?

The regulation in Norway related to petroleum does not include a midstream area of activities and facilities. All petroleum activities associated with subsea petroleum deposits – including utilisation of petroleum which is necessary for, or an integrated part of, production or transportation of petroleum – are regulated by the Petroleum Act and regarded as upstream activities. Activities outside the scope of the Petroleum Act (downstream) are regulated by general industry and other relevant legislation.

Upstream The primary laws relating to health, safety and environment in the petroleum industry are:

  • the Petroleum Act;
  • the Working Environment Act;
  • the Pollution Control Act; and
  • five core health, safety and environment regulations issued pursuant to these acts.

The health, safety and environment regulations all stipulate functional risk and performance-based requirements, which mean that most requirements are not listed specifically and individually with regard to a certain activity, method or equipment, but rather as a functional description – thereby giving the industry the opportunity to choose among several methods.

There are also several general health, safety and environment regulations issued pursuant to the Working Environment Act and the Fire and Explosion Protection Act that apply to the offshore petroleum activities.

Downstream The downstream activities are, with the exception of a small refining sector and local natural gas transmission and distribution, mainly related to retail and transportation of petroleum products, which are subject to the ordinary legal regime applicable to handling hazardous substances and related facilities and activities. These activities are mainly regulated by:

  • the Working Environment Act;
  • the Fire and Explosion Protection Act;
  • the Electrical Supervision Act; and
  • relevant regulations issued pursuant to such legislation.

Labour law

Are there any labour law provisions with specific relevance to the oil and gas industry (eg, with regard to use of native and foreign personnel)?

The Working Environment Act and related laws regulating labour relations apply to petroleum activities conducted on permanently placed facilities subject to Norwegian jurisdiction and activities beyond such areas when Norwegian jurisdiction applies pursuant to public international law.

If petroleum activities related to petroleum deposits subject to Norwegian jurisdiction are conducted on or from mobile facilities, the Working Environment Act and the relevant health, safety and environment regulations apply to the personnel involved in the petroleum activities on board. When a moveable facility or vessel is not conducting petroleum activities, the flag state rules of the facility or vessel apply. If a moveable facility or vessel carries a Norwegian flag, the Ship Labour Act and the Ship Safety and Security Act regulate the working environment and more general labour issues.

Petroleum activity-specific regulation (partly deviating from general working environment law) is mainly stipulated in the Framework Regulations and the Activity Regulations.

Currently, there are no local content regulations or similar requirements requiring Norwegian personnel or services while conducting petroleum operations. 

What is the state of collective bargaining/organised labour in your jurisdiction’s oil and gas industry?

In Norway, more than 50% of workers are organised through a variety of trade unions with collective bargaining agreements with the oil industry and ship owner associations. Trade unions are also influential in the three-party collaboration influencing all business and public sectors in Norway – including the petroleum sector – which comprises employers, employees (trade unions) and the government.

Through both general Norwegian labour law and oil and gas-specific regulations, workers are given a right to extensive contribution to and influence on their work situation – for example, representation on the board of the joint stock companies, local workers’ committees and health, safety and environment committees, and local representatives with certain powers in relation to health, safety and environment.

The Working Environment Act stipulates freedom of organisation for all employees and the Petroleum Act requires that a licensee ensure that trade union activities are permitted to take place among its own employees and the personnel of contractors and subcontractors in accordance with Norwegian practice.

The trade unions for oil and gas workers are normally subordinates to central federations of trade unions. Collective bargaining for the trade unions take place every second year with general applicable tariff agreements lasting for the same duration. Pursuant to the Wage Agreements Application Act, a wage committee may decide that a nationwide wage agreement will apply in full or in part to all employees carrying out work of the kind specified in the agreement within a sector.

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