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August 25, 2010

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Offshore industry warned over major-accident potential

A steep rise in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases – regarded as potential precursors to a major incident – has sparked the HSE to issue a warning to bosses in the offshore oil and gas industry.

Figures released by the watchdog yesterday (24 August) show that the number of unplanned hydrocarbon releases soared by almost 40 per cent, from 61 in 2008/09 to a provisional 85 in 2009/10.

The number of major injuries reported also increased from 30 last year to 50 in 2009/10 – higher than the average of 42 over the previous five years.

Incidents occurring in marine and transport activities are not regulated by the HSE, so the loss of two crew and 14 workers on a helicopter flight in April last year, as well as the death of another worker in a lifting-related incident on a diving support vessel, are not recorded in the statistics.

The combined fatal and major injury rate almost doubled to 192 per 100,000 workers in 2009/10, compared with 106 last year and 156 in 2007/08.

There was, however, a significant reduction in the minor over-three-day injury rate, with 414 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, compared with 496 in the previous year.

The head of the HSE’s offshore division, Steve Walker, welcomed the comparatively low numbers of injuries and dangerous occurrences but described the overall picture for health and safety as “simply not good enough”.

Added Walker: “I am particularly disappointed, and concerned, that major and significant hydrocarbon releases are up by more than a third on last year. This is a key indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major-accident potential, and it really must up its game to identify and rectify the root causes of such events.”

Oil & Gas UK’s health, safety and employment issues director, Robert Paterson, said: “Reducing the number of hydrocarbon releases remains a top priority and is a key focus of the industry’s absolute commitment to continuously improving process-safety standards.

“In 2009, Step Change in Safety, the UK’s flagship offshore safety initiative, revised and updated the hydrocarbon-release reduction toolkit, containing good-practice techniques and guidelines to assist operators in their unremitting efforts to reduce the numbers and size of releases.”

Looking ahead, he added: “The industry will now reflect on these statistics and seek a way forward, by identifying the things which we can do better.”

The HSE recently announced a new offshore inspection programme to ensure ageing infrastructure does not compromise safety.

“The challenge to improve safety will be ever greater as more offshore installations exceed their original design life,” insisted Walker. “Our new inspection initiative will check safety management plans to ensure ageing is being taken into account, but the responsibility for getting safety right in the first place rests where it always has – with the duty-holders.”

The offshore statistics bulletin is at

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13 years ago

Those quoted in the above article have rightly identified the need to reflect on the findings and SHL agrees with Steve Walker that the industry must “up its game.” The oil & gas industry has to look beyond just processes & training at people’s behaviours. We found that orgs which incorporate a measurement of behavioural risk (i.e. ideintifying those workers who are more likley to have an accident) were able to predict incident hotspots and so were better placed to prevent further incidents.