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HSE stats show most UK offshore safety and hydrocarbon release trends improved in 2011/12

17 September 2012

The Health & Safety Executive’s 2011/2012 Offshore Safety Statistics Bulletin records 36 major injuries during the period, a reduction of six compared to 2010/11 and compares to an average of 41 major injuries over each of the previous five years. There were an estimated 29,058 offshore workers in 2011/12, an increase of 5% on the 2010/11 estimate of 27,600 workers. 

The combined fatal and major injury rate fell to 130.77 per 100,000 workers in 2011/12 compared to 151.84 in 2010/11, the second lowest rate over the last 10 years (the lowest in 2008 being 106.2). The five-year average prior to 11/12 is 149.6.  

Two fatalities occurred in 2011/12, the first fatalities on offshore installations since 2006/07. The first was a fall from height and the second a fatality during a diving operation. The main causes of major injuries were related to slips/trips/falls (17), being trapped or struck by moving objects (7), or injuries associated with lifts/pulls/pushes/handling of loads (7), accounting for 86% of the total.

A total of 425 dangerous occurrences (including well incidents) were reported. Main types of dangerous occurrences were failure of equipment offshore (30.6%), hydrocarbon releases (29.9%), well-related incidents (10.1%) and fire events offshore (6.8%).

Hydrocarbon releases are regarded as potential precursors to major accidents if ignited, and HSE monitors the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases as a key performance indicator (KPI) of the offshore industry’s effectiveness of process health and safety management on offshore installations. There was a significant reduction in the total number of Major and Significant HCRs (52) in 2011/12 compared to the previous year’s total of 73 and the annual average of 73 over the previous five years. 
Well incidents were fewer in 2011 than for many years, both in absolute numbers and in relation to the level of rig activity. It should be noted, though, that the reduction is due in part to the low level of exploration drilling, especially in the Southern North Sea, where historically kicks from the Zechstein formations have been frequent. The number of reported incidents involving failure of a safety critical element of a well is also slightly lower than in previous years.

Since 2008, Oil and Gas UK has been collecting voluntary industry data, monitoring two additional offshore KPIs in key areas of major hazard prevention.  These two KPIs relate to the level of outstanding safety critical maintenance (KPI-3) and to the level of issues raised by third party verification (KPI-2) of the performance of its safety critical equipment (and how they are subsequently closed out).  These two additional crossindustry KPIs are included in this HSE Offshore Safety Statistics Bulletin to provide useful additional evidence of the offshore industry’s major hazard performance. 
Headline findings relating to KPI-3 showed no significant reductions of the total number of backlog man-hours for planned safety-critical maintenance over the past three years, while KPI-2 monitoring showed a 83% reduction (35 to 6) in the more significant (Level 3) findings by independent verification bodies over the 3 year period.

Steve Walker, Head of HSE’s Offshore Safety Division, said: "While we welcome the continued downward trend, industry will need continued focus to achieve its target of halving the number of hydrocarbon releases by April 2013. The major gas release from the Elgin platform at the end of March was a salutary reminder of the potential consequences that such releases can present.

"The deaths of offshore workers are always unacceptable. Although those in 2011/12 are the first ones to be recorded in our statistics since 2007, they are a tragic reminder that this is a high risk industry and safety must remain a priority.

"While these industry figures showed a significant reduction in the number of times independent verification identified serious matters of concern offshore, inroads to reducing the backlog of safety critical maintenance show little movement. This requires sustained improvement of planned safety critical maintenance programmes. The industry needs to address this area and ensure issues are tackled in a timely manner."

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