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Health, safety, and environment (HSE) risk-based standards

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Historically health, safety, and environment (HSE) standards have been developed using a prescriptive management approach. A new, and potentially more effective, approach to the development of company HSE standards is to shift towards a more risk-based HSE strategy. The risk-based approach allows resources to be focused towards geographic locations, activities, and services that present higher risk to a company and its customers. Some risk-based HSE approaches involves setting prescribed fundamental controls that apply to all activities and employees at all company sites. While some controls apply without variation, the application of many controls increases proportionally with the assessed risk.[1]

Courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections.

Development of standards

The development of the control levels for the HSE standards incorporates factors such as:

  • The physical geographic location.
  • The operating environment.
  • The risks associated with the activities, products and services performed internally within the company.
  • The risks associated with the activities, products and services performed externally.

Risk-based HSE standards should contain:

  • A statement of intent.
  • The objective of the standard.
  • A scope of application.
  • Requirements for implementation of controls.
  • Clear statements of responsibility for the management of the subject matter.
  • Performance monitoring criteria for performance and compliance..

Geographically influenced risks

HSE risks that have a geographic element, such as driving and health issues can be managed using a basic process and a set of fundamental controls, which would apply to company sites, operations, and personnel regardless of the geographic location or the operational activity being conducted such as[1]:

  • Driving
    • Required seatbelts
    • Headlights on when in operation
    • Hands-free communications
    • Vehicle training
    • Journey management
  • Heath
    • Physicals
    • Vaccinations
    • Health training

Risk-based controls are then defined based on a specific geographic risk assessment processes. Tools developed to help assess the particular location's hazard level are accessible publicly, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and internal experts.

Defining driving risk

Defined controls required by the geographic area’s journey management procedure and the non-field or field driving location as well as applicable local regulatory or other compliance requirements can be based on the following criteria:

  • Operational requirements, vehicle types, and/or type of loads to be transported or trip ranges.
  • Security issues and communication.
  • Climate and/or weather.
  • Road types and surfaces.
  • Terrain
  • Vulnerable road users.
  • Legal requirements, business risk, and/or customer requirements.
  • Local hazards identified from road hazard assessments.

Defining health risk

A minimum specification of the risk-based controls should be proportional to the assessed geographic area’s health risk level.

  • The geographic location’s health risk level – high, medium or low can be based on the following criteria
    • World Health Organization – statistics (number of deaths per 100, 000 people, life expectancy at birth, per capita expenditure for health per year).
    • Available health care facilities in the geographic location.
    • Geographic location’s health regulatory system.
    • Geographic location’s medical regulatory and other requirements.
    • Geographic location’s disease prevalence.
    • Geographic location’s fitness to work restrictions.

Sites should also be assessed as field or non-field based on the remoteness of the work site. These designations are used to determine:

  • The extent of on-site medical facilities and resources.
  • The need for health care facility assessments.
  • Fitness to work criteria.
  • The specific requirements of the medical emergency response plan in relation to emergency medevac.

An operational location health risk assessment can be performed to identify and evaluate the risks that can affect the health of personnel in the workplace, taking into account the following factors:

  • Emergency response
  • Logistics
  • Location
  • Company demographics
  • Biological
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Applicable legal and other compliance requirements.
  • Physical exposure
  • Chemical exposure

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When risk is not based on geographical factors other standards must be put into place. These standards should still contain fundamental controls, which would apply regardless of geographic location or operation, however, the risk-based controls should be focused primarily on operational activities, with specific additional requirements based on the characteristics of the location, rather than geographic location. Personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines ensures its correct use, in accordance with the following fundamental controls.[1]

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should:

  • Consider applicable national or international standards and respect company guidelines.
  • Be provided in sufficient quantities, size, style, comfort, ergonomic, gender, and diversity considerations.
  • Protective equipment (PPE) should not conflict with social and cultural values, so long as this does not compromise the protection provided.
  • Include training in the selection, fit, use, inspection, storage, and maintenance.
  • Include company image guidelines and badging requirements.
  • Include clearly marked personal protective equipment (PPE) and safe zones and/or signage on company controlled sites.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) standards should contain a general personal protective equipment (PPE) risk matrix, which outlines the minimum expectations for general personal protective equipment (PPE) selection in a range of typical company work environments; this matrix can specify required levels of protection such as:

  • Body, hand, foot, eye/face and head protection.
  • Mandatory minimum requirements.
  • Basic, advanced, and activity specific personal protective equipment (PPE).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Walker, K., & Oeen, O. 2014. The Development of Risk-Based Company HSE Standards. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Wiig, E., & Schumacher, R. 2002. Technical Integrity. Implementation of a Fully Integrated and Risk Based Management System. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Related books

Frenier, W.W. 2016. Chemical and Mechanical Methods for Pipeline Maintenance and Rehabilitation.  Richardson, TX: Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Woodward, J.L. and Pitbaldo, R. 2010. LNG Risk Based Safety: Modeling and Consequence Analysis. Wiley.

External links


Risk-based inspection

Land Transportation Recommended Practices. 2014. OGP. Report No. 365, Issue 2.

TWI. 2001. Best practice for risk based inspection as a part of plant integrity management. Crown.

See also


Health, safety, and environment (HSE) hurt based standards

Health, safety, and environment (HSE) treatment based standards