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Safety on show at Offshore Europe

01 September 2009

Safety equipment for the offshore industry will be key at the forthcoming Offshore Europe oil and gas conference and exhibition being held next week at the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre. Organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the event runs from September 8 to 11.

Good safety is good business
Good safety is good business

The offshore sector is traditionally a risky place to be with an abundance of flammable and poisonous materials as well as the ever present danger of operating in the North Sea. But statistics recently published by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggest that the offshore sector is getting safer with incidents reaching a record low. The combined fatal and major injury rate and major hydrocarbon releases at their lowest since HSE  began regulating the industry.

No workers were killed while working offshore during 2008/09 - the second consecutive year with no fatalities - and there was a fall in major injuries with 30 reported, a fall of 14 compared with 2007/08 figures.

The combined fatal and major injury rate reduced to 106 per 100,000 workers in 2008/09 compared with 156 in 2007/08 and 146 in 2006/07. And the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases, regarded as potential precursors to an incident, also showed marked improvement with 61 in 2008/09 compared with 74 in 2007/08.

In 2008/09 there was a small fall in the minor three-day injury rate with 496 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, bucking the broadly flat trend over the previous seven years.

HSE's remit does not extend to air and marine activities and April's helicopter disaster highlighted the dangers associated with North Sea transportation issues. HSE Chair Judith Hackitt explained: “Although we were pleased to see no fatalities occurring in offshore operations for a second consecutive year, this good news was of course overshadowed by the tragic events of 1 April when the Super Puma helicopter crashed with the loss of 16 passengers. The same day, in a separate incident, a worker received fatal injuries aboard a dive support vessel in transit.

“These incidents show that hazards are ever present offshore. The loss of 17 offshore workers this year is a tragedy and stark reminder to us all,” Hackitt concluded.

Regarding the reduced level of hydrocarbon releases, Ian Whewell Head of HSE’s Offshore Division hopes the industry will not sit on its laurels: “Although I welcome the reduction in major and significant hydrocarbon releases,” Whewell commented, “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. I believe the workforce has a key role to play and I encourage the industry to continue working on improved workforce involvement and to give their full support to safety representatives.

“Ultimately, good safety is good business.”

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