News Article

What Drives Mexico's Safety Performance

Wed, 01/25/2012 - 15:54

One of the quirks of the Mexican regulatory system is that, until 2007, there was no office in the Energy Ministry dedicated to industrial safety. Today, the department exists, but only comprises two staff members. One might wonder exactly what this says about the government’s attitude toward industrial safety. As Gerson Obed Vega Ibarra, Director of Industrial Safety within Mexico’s Energy Ministy says, “I think at the moment, the government does not have a clear picture of this topic.”

Obed Vega Ibarra goes on to explain the number of different actors responsible for ensuring safety and security relating to the oil and gas industry: “When you think about safety, you need to add health, environmental aspects and quality in order to build a safe working environment. We are trying to put together all of these aspects that are coordinated by different ministries. The Labour Ministry has the responsibility to handle health topics, while the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry has the responsibility to address and supervise all matters related to environmental aspects. Then the military is responsible for the security of all rig facilities in Mexican waters, and has the responsibility of containing oil spills. Additionally, the Communication and Transportation Ministry is responsible for coordinating all the vessels and supervising all the mobile offshore drilling units. Arranging one overarching safety organization in the middle of this is a challenge that must be tackled slowly in order to ensure sustainability of the agency.”

Obed Vega Ibarra explains that the short-term driver for creating the Industrial Safety Department at the Energy Ministry was the 2007 accident on the Usumacinta platform that led to the deaths of 22 people. After this, two regulations were passed into law regarding industrial safety. The first established that the Energy Ministry was responsible for all matters relating to Pemex’s industrial safety; before this, the Ministry was already responsible for this area, but in an informal sense. The second regulation was an umbrella regulation that established all the safety requirements to which Pemex had to adhere based on international best practices. Currently, the industrial safety department is drafting new regulations that address specific issues and incidents for which Pemex must be prepared.

Talking about the role that Pemex, the Energy Ministry and the CNH must play together regarding industrial safety, Obed Vega Ibarra says, “The Pemex law established that Pemex must have an industrial system to take the necessary preventative actions in order to avoid damaging communities, property and the environment. The Energy Ministry has the responsibility to define energy policy and to add the aspects of industrial safety and environmental protection in general terms. The CNH has the responsibility to define the requirements that Pemex must follow in technical terms. The Energy Ministry sets the minimum requirements and the CNH defines the details.”