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Calls for safety to be stepped up for onshore gas contractors

Yara Pilbara liquid ammonia plant on the Burrup PeninsulaThe CEO of Western Australia’s largest ammonia producer Yara Pilbara, Mark Loquan, has called for a united approach to improving onshore contractor safety in Western Australia.

Mr Loquan has told delegates at the CMEWA Health and Safety conference in Perth that the onshore sector is lagging behind the offshore industry in achieving across industry minimum safety standards for contractors.

“I am in no way questioning the commitment to safety across the sector and by the contractors, but I am concerned there are no agreed minimum standards that apply across the onshore processing industry,” Mr Loquan said.

“Currently it’s somewhat fragmented, with individual companies having their own systems and requirements but the industry has a highly mobile workforce. This can yield unpredictable outcomes in the industry.”

Mr Loquan said Yara Pilbara had successfully embarked on a continuous program to improve occupational and process safety performance, having attained over 800 days without a recordable injury for employees or contractors in February 2014.

“Although we have a permanent residential workforce, like many operators we have a strong reliance on contractors for certain tasks and we take our duty of care very seriously.  We do wish to continuously raise the bar on safety, which can only benefit all workers entering our site to return home safely to their families.”

Mr Loquan told the conference he supported the introduction of a co-ordinated contractor safety system such as that implemented offshore in Australia by APPEA, or similarly that which he had seen first-hand operating in Trinidad and Tobago’s petrochemical industry.

He said through a collaborative approach in Trinidad and Tobago several onshore processing companies, the country’s Energy Chamber, contractors and industry bodies had developed a “passport” system with key features including:

  • Approved certification and training providers and independent testing
  • Agreed minimum safety standards
  • Gate check “passport card” linked to a secure database
  • Safety management system audits for companies conducting high risk activities.

“This will not happen overnight but I think as an industry we need to possibly collaborate more for the long term and to acknowledge the need for minimum standards.  In this way, we can get on with working together to put a robust system in place to improve occupational safety for contractors,” Mr Loquan said.

He said Yara Pilbara had in the short term been using the WA construction industry “white card” as a standard and had also been discussing with APPEA the possibility of modifying the Common Safety Training Program (CSTP) card for the offshore platforms and applying it to the company’s WA plants.

Yara Pilbara is the operator of one of the world’s largest ammonia production facilities located near Karratha. The company is also currently building an $800 million technical ammonium nitrate (TAN) plant on the neighbouring site. 

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AMSJ April 2022