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August 4, 2009

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Offshore sector outdoes past safety record

Further evidence of the improved safety performance of the oil and gas

industry is provided by the latest offshore statistics, published by

the HSE.

For the second consecutive year, no workers were killed while working offshore, while major injuries fell by 14, with 30 recorded cases in the 2008/09 period. This added up to a combined fatal and major injury rate of 106 per 100,000 workers — the lowest-ever recorded by the HSE and a significant advance on 156 per 100,000 workers in 2007/08.

There was also a marked improvement in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases — regarded as potential precursors to an incident — with the total of 61 also being the lowest since the HSE began regulating the industry in 1991.

The statistics support the findings of last month’s KP3 report, which showed that the industry has allocated considerable resource and effort to improve offshore assets and comply with relevant standards.

The main causes of major injuries were slips and trips (12); being trapped, struck by moving objects, or striking against equipment (10); and injuries associated with moving loads (4). A smaller fall was recorded in the minor three-day injury rate, with 496 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, while there were 31 fewer dangerous occurrences reported, representing a 6.1-per-cent decrease from the 509 reported in 2007/08.

Despite the progress made, the head of the HSE’s offshore division, Ian Whewell, warned that early evidence for 2009/10 suggests the improved performance is not being maintained.

He said: “Although I welcome the reduction in major and significant hydrocarbon releases the challenge is to secure sustained improvement. Carrying forward last year’s success will require continued industry focus on integrity management, safe systems of work, supervision, risk assessment and competence. Worryingly, early indicators for 2009/10 suggest last year’s improved performance is currently not being delivered.

“Renewed effort is also essential to reduce the number of minor injuries, which have only been showing a slow rate of decline. A focus on training, together with identification and management of hazards and risks, are key factors for preventing incidents.”

Whewell also stressed the importance of the industry involving the workforce on safety matters, and encouraged employers to give their full support to safety representatives.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt described the statistics as encouraging but said they were blighted by the death of 16 passengers on the Super Puma helicopter, which crashed in the North Sea on 1 April — the same day that a worker died from injuries sustained aboard a dive support vessel in transit.

“Even though the HSE’s remit does not extend to air and marine transport activities, these incidents show that hazards are ever present offshore,” remarked Hackitt. “The loss of 17 offshore workers this year is a tragedy and stark reminder to us all.”

The offshore statistics bulletin is available by clicking here.

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