GSO Guideline Replaces IRP 16

New document aims to clarify safety orientation requirements

The withdrawal of IRP* 16 has created some concern among companies in the oil and gas industry that the safety orientations they have invested so much time and money in will now have to be completely re-written to meet a new set of standards.

According to Roy McKnight, Manager of Initiatives with Enform, that is simply not the case.

Enform, the safety association for Canada’s upstream oil and gas industry, works with six industry partners to help companies achieve their safety goals – the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC), the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC), the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) and the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (SEPAC).

McKnight said IRP 16 was originally developed in 2001 as a guideline to provide the oil and gas industry with information on Basic Industry Safety Orientation Programs, which outlined what good organizations should be doing regarding the orientation of new, young and inexperienced workers. The idea was to use the information in IRP 16 as a guideline during the development of general safety orientation programs, keeping in mind that provincial and federal OHS regulations would always take precedence. It was hoped companies would use IRP 16 and co-operate on their safety orientations so contractors and employees wouldn’t be forced to re-learn the same basic safety information over and over again.


As McKnight explained it, the IRP 16 document got too specific and too complicated and was debated endlessly before it was finally rolled out in 2003. IRP 16 was more than 100 pages long and “very, very detailed” McKnight said, with many “requirements”. He added that much of the information was so specific that it only applied in certain situations, yet there was nothing in the document to clarify that point.

In the end, he said, many companies weren’t following the IRP 16 guidelines anyway, simply because the document was too long, too complicated and too detailed.  On the other hand, he added, some companies were using IRP 16 as if it was to be adhered to and followed above provincial and federal OHS regulations. IRP 16 was never intended to supersede those regulations, McKnight stressed, it was always meant to be merely a guide.

When IRP 16 came up for its regular review in 2009, the first question asked was whether the document was continuing to meet its intended purpose. When the answer was a rather resounding no, the Industry Working Group decided it was time to withdraw IRP 16 and replace it with a much simpler document that would clarify the original purpose.

McKnight explained that it wasn’t enough to simply update IRP 16, a full-scale change was required. For starters, he said, the very name – Industry Recommended Practices – was misleading. The replacement document is called simply what it is: a General Safety Orientation Guideline.

In just 28 pages, the GSO Guideline clearly describes the requirements of General Safety Orientation programs. “It’s shorter, clearer and reflects the western Canadian OHS requirements and nothing more,” McKnight said.

Responding to concerns about existing safety and orientation programs, McKnight said a review process is in the works and will be released by the end of 2012. Companies will be able to submit their existing general safety orientation programs electronically.

McKnight noted that a list of self-reviewed and declared programs will no longer be maintained. He also added that Enform will not be reviewing third party developed orientation programs as the employer is responsible for the accuracy of the content and for making sure all employees have successfully completed the general safety orientation. Because of that reality, it is the company that must submit its own general safety orientation for review.

IRP 16 was actually one of about 24 industry recommended practices that have been developed by industry and administered by Enform. McKnight said the Drilling and Completion IRPs are all very technical documents, on specific topics such as critical sour drilling, minimum wellhead requirements and snubbing operations. They are also regularly reviewed and updated, he said, but at this time there are no plans to withdraw any of those IRPs.


In the end, McKnight said, it is hoped that the GSO Guideline will accomplish what IRP 16 couldn’t – assist companies in developing general safety orientation programs for their new, young and inexperienced employees and allow more widespread co-operation among companies and recognition of commonalities in orientation programs, which will help reduce redundancies.

Ian McCabe, a Certified Health and Safety Consultant who provides on site safety training for oil and gas companies across Alberta, is concerned that the issues that plagued IRP 16 won’t be resolved with this new document.

“What I don’t see here is a willingness for each sector to accept each other’s certificates,” McCabe said. “A worker could still end up having to do three of these courses.”

He added that even though the GSO Guideline clearly states that the oil and gas industry recognizes the Petroleum Industry Training program (PST), the Construction Safety Training System (CSTS) and the Pipeline Construction Safety Training Course (PCST) as approved general safety orientation programs, some individual companies are still unwilling to recognize certain of these certificates. For example, he said, company A might insist on all their workers having CSTS certification, while others will only accept PST certification.

“There’s never going to be a standard if they don’t co-operate,” McCabe said.

GSO was officially released as of January 1, 2012, but it is still somewhat in process, McKnight said. Over the next several months Enform and its partners will roll out a marketing plan to explain and promote the GSO Guideline, complementary tools to allow for adoption of the GSO Guideline and an equivalency process for those companies with existing robust general safety orientation programs.

* An IRP (industry recommended practice) is a set of guidelines developed and prepared by government and industry experts to offer advice to management and operators in the oil and gas industry.

For more information on the GSO Guideline or to find out how you can get your own custom safety courses online, contact SafetySpot at 780-739-5850 or visit the SafetySpot website.

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