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December 18, 2009

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Offshore head gives sector subdued praise

The HSE’s head of offshore has told the oil and gas industry that it

must not neglect the risks associated with workers’ everyday tasks

after a broadly positive health and safety performance for the sector

was confirmed.

The offshore health and safety statistics for 2008/09 follows the release of ‘headline’ figures in August.

In 2008/09, there was a small fall in the three-day injury rate, with 496 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, but the Executive’s Steve Walker warned that while continuing to work to reduce the potential for large-scale incidents, the sector “must not forget the risks to workers from everyday activities, such as lifting and carrying, and maintenance work, which were responsible for the vast majority of all offshore injuries during 2008/09”.

The statistics reveal that no one was killed while working offshore during 2008/09 — the second consecutive year with no fatalities — and the number of major injuries reported fell by 14, from the 44 recorded in 2007/08.

The combined fatal and major injury rate reduced to 106 per 100,000 workers, compared with 156 in 2007/08, and the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases, regarded as potential precursors to a major incident, also improved — with 61 in 2008/09 compared with 74 in the previous year.

But despite these broadly positive trends, Walker remained cautious, saying: “Though these figures suggest the sector is getting safer, with both the combined fatal and major injury rate and major hydrocarbon releases at their lowest since HSE began regulating the industry, they cannot be taken in isolation.

“The tragic loss on 1 April 2009 of 17 workers in two separate air-transport and maritime incidents — areas not regulated by the HSE — is a stark reminder of the hazards of working offshore, and the need to ensure they are carefully managed.”

Commenting earlier in the year, after the preliminary statistics had been published, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, Malcolm Webb, said: “These reductions demonstrate the efforts that have been made to prevent incidents happening that result in people getting hurt.

“These include continuing, and substantial investment in, workforce training — such as the new Minimum Industry Safety Training Standard — and increasing understanding of asset integrity among industry leaders through sharing sessions and the new asset-integrity workshops.”

He went on to say that workforce engagement would be critical in helping the industry reach its goal of making the UK Continental Shelf the safest place to work in the sector worldwide. In a sober reminder of the challenge, he added: “The tragic helicopter accident, which claimed the lives of 16 workers, and the fatal accident on the Wellservicer on the same day, have further motivated the industry to work together to reduce the rates of accidents related to offshore operations.”

The offshore injury, ill health and incident statistics report 2008/09 can be downloaded free from the HSE website at

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