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MMS Rule Requires Industry to Report 'Near-Miss' Incidents on OCS

The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) last week issued a final rule that not only requires companies to report to the federal government major incidents stemming from operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), but to report the near-misses.

Current regulations require producers, operators, pipelines and other companies to report all major incidents -- explosions, fires, blowouts, hydrocarbon leaks and deaths -- to the MMS, but the new final rule "broadens the scope of serious accidents and serious injuries to include those incidents that had the potential to be serious," the agency said in the final rule, which was published in the Federal Register last Monday.

"MMS is requiring reporting down to this level to learn more about the causes of all incidents. MMS considers these less serious incidents to be the 'near misses' that could have resulted in more serious consequences," it said.

Under the final rule, the agency has expanded its list of reportable incidents to include the following serious accidents or accidents that have the potential to be serious:

"Our intent in requiring the reporting of all of these incidents is to catch the 'near misses' that do not result in fatalities, injuries, fires, explosions or blowouts, but that could have resulted in serious outcomes," the MMS said. "We estimated that there could be an increase of up to 351 reports per year due to the new requirement to report the [near-miss] incidents."

In a concession to the offshore industry, the MMS noted that it "scaled back most of the requirements contained in the proposed rule that the commenters asserted for overly burdensome." For example, industry members objected to the multiple time frames for verbal and written reporting of incidents as being too complicated. "We agree with these comments, and have revised the rule to require immediate reporting of certain incidents via oral communications, with a written follow-up within 15 calendar days. In addition, the rule requires written reporting of certain less-severe incidents within 15 calendar days."

The MMS said it also dropped the requirement that written reports be submitted electronically. "The final rule does not specify or mention any method. You may submit written reports in whatever manner (mail, courier, personal delivery, fax or e-mail) you choose."

The Interior agency further agreed with industry members who said the personnel injury categories in the proposed rule were not realistic for reporting purposes. "[We] have simplified the categories. This rule requires the immediate reporting of all injuries that require the evacuation of the injured person(s) from the facility to shore or to another offshore facility. A written follow-up report within 15 calendar days is required for any injury that results in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer," it said.

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