Offshore industry safety standards have fallen, says Unite union
Health and safety standards in the oil and gas sector have dropped in the past six months, according to Unite.
The union surveyed more than 700 offshore workers, and more than 58% claimed standards had fallen, with 38% saying it had stayed the same. Just over 3% reported an improvement.
The union said 38.5% of respondents felt unable to report an incident because of fear of victimisation.
Industry body Oil and Gas UK said safety was its highest priority.
Unite called for a whistleblowing helpline to be set up.
Regional officer William Wallace: “This survey shows a very worrying picture
“Companies should never – ever – make cuts that threaten health and safety and put the lives of our members at risk.
“The lessons of Piper Alpha should never be forgotten.
“We will be calling on the industry to work with health and safety bodies, with the trade unions, and with government so that we can get a confidential helpline created.
“No worker should feel victimised for raising these issues. The consequences could be catastrophic.”
Trish Sentance, health and safety manager at Oil & Gas UK, said: “Just under 50% of those who responded felt health and safety offshore had stayed the same or improved, but we do acknowledge that concerns have been raised.
“Safe operations has to be at the heart of everything we do and there is always more work to be done. However, it is good to see that the majority responding have felt able to report an incident.
“Industry takes the issue of health and safety very seriously and we would always encourage those with concerns to come forward to report these.
“For those wishing to make an anonymous report there is an industry wide confidential Health & Safety Executive phone-line already in place.”
The industry body said senior in senior industry representatives meet regularly with the offshore unions, through the Offshore Co-ordinating Group, and health and safety is “always central to the discussion”.
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Offshore union RMT sets out five critical points as it calls for “crisis management” plan to rescue British jobs and infrastructure in wake of oil price slump
OFFSHORE UNION RMT today set out five critical points as it calls for a plan of action from politicians both north and south of the border to rescue British jobs and infrastructure in the offshore industry in the wake of the oil price slump.
People; RMT has major concerns about the impact of cost-cutting across the sector. We are hearing from workers with several different operators (Total, Apache, Shell and others) that terms and conditions are to be slashed in an effort to reduce costs. The most worrying element of these cuts are the proposed changes to working patterns which could see workers currently working 2-weeks on, 3-weeks off, being altered to either 2-on, 2-off; or 3-on, 3-off. These changes if pushed through will see significant redundancies and a loss of experience and ‘corporate memory’. For those remaining, the ‘safety culture’ we have developed over the last 5-years plus will be irreparably damaged as working hours increase significantly whilst income stands still. Talk of low morale is already widespread, which in a major hazard industry should be cause for concern.
Hardware; The cost-cutting agenda will see major redevelopment/refurbishment projects delayed indefinitely, as investment dries up. For some installations this will be of serious concern. The Health & Safety Executive Key Programmes 3 & 4, ‘Asset Integrity’ and ‘Ageing Infrastructure’ respectively, are wholly reliant on investment for redevelopment/refurbishment, without it many installations will be run inefficiently and moreover with greater risks and hazards. History demonstrates that during each and every downturn which the sector has suffered we have come close to disaster and the fatality rate has increased. The pressure to reduce costs, but maintain production, creates scenarios like the Shell Brent Bravo incident of 2003; insufficient numbers of motivated people avoiding the risk of losing production by doing little or no intrusive maintenance on safety critical equipment so leaving us a spark away from another Piper Alpha disaster.
Regulating and auditing; The HSE will be stretched to maximum capacity trying to deal with the introduction of the new EU Offshore Safety Directive which will require every installation to submit their respective safety cases. The impacts of cost-cutting may well elude the inspectorate as they deal with the ‘paperwork’ of safety case assessment and they are already under resourced. The Offshore Elected Safety Representatives (ESR’s) are enthusiastic, committed amateurs and undoubtedly are making a difference. However, the ESR’s are primarily workers and are subject to the same pressures and constraints as their peers, therefore when faced with the same fears and threats their approach to auditing and inspecting will inevitably be impacted.
Sustainability; The frequently referred to ‘Wood Review’ sets out the ‘master plan’ for maximising recovery from the UK sector and sustaining production. However, the ‘collaboration’ required to enable this is reliant on the infrastructure being fit for purpose. New fields are smaller and more difficult to access so a means to transport the product to shore is critical to sustainability, which in turn means the existing infrastructure has to be maintained to the highest standard. The ‘Wood Review’ was drafted and based it’s projections on an oil price in excess of $100 a barrel. For all of the reasons set out above, that sustainability must now be at risk.
Decommissioning; if none of the issues above are addressed by innovative tax incentives during this difficult period, then we face the loss of the infrastructure and with it the ability to exploit remaining reserves. On top of this, the UK tax payer faces a massive bill – some estimate as much as £30 billion – for decommissioning and meeting the EU commitments on clean up. We need Westminster to adopt a crisis management approach and ensure sustained production, maintained infrastructure, retention of skills, and a robustly regulated regime.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“In the wake of the current price slump RMT is demanding that Westminster and the Scottish Parliament adopt a crisis management approach today to ensure sustained production, maintenance of infrastructure, retention of skills, and a robustly regulated regime in the future.
“If immediate action isn’t taken then we risk turning todays crisis into longer term damage that would threaten the very core of our offshore industry.
“With tens of thousands of jobs at stake, along with the prospect of lasting damage to infrastructure, production capacity and the safety culture, intervention is absolutely critical and that is the case that we are setting out today to the politicians north and south of the border and from all sides.”
Unite the Union calls for an Oil & Gas summit with all the stakeholders and Health & Safety concerns are among the points that Unite and our offshore membership want to see a significant increase in confidence of offshore oil & gas workers within their work-related health & safety environment covering a range of potential serious health & safety risks and hazards including helicopter travel, critical safety maintenance, potential hydro – carbon releases.
Health & Safety offshore is no accident Unite along with Offshore trade unions demand the highest H&S standards and training in a high-risk major hazard sector
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