Releases, Injuries Prompt Review of Britain's Offshore Industry

Britain's Health and Safety Executive announced Aug. 13 that it has begun a review of the booming offshore industry because of a continuing stream of major hydrocarbon releases, which are often regarded as precursors to a major accident, the agency said. A high number of injuries also is worrisome, HSE said.

HSE, which is equivalent to OSHA, released figures showing there has been no improvement in releases this year. During 2007/2008, 517 dangerous incidents were reported, of which 40 percent were hydrocarbon releases. The HSE report on offshore statistics is available at www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/statistics/stat0708.htm. "The statistics we have released today underline that we are far from being in a position where we can feel comfortable," HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said. "Although there are instances where improvements have been sustained, the control of potential major incident risks seems to have taken a back seat. We continue to be concerned at the failure to reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases, together with an increase in the number of major injuries. This suggests that basic safety systems are not being followed.

"Twenty years on from Piper Alpha, we must learn key lessons to ensure that failures of basic systems do not lead to major incidents," Hackitt added. "The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, has asked us to conduct a thorough review of the industry following the KP3 report on asset integrity published last year. This industry review will be a crucial part of our ongoing work in this high-priority program. With the demand for oil and gas so high and with assets being worked beyond their original intended life span, it is more important than ever that the offshore industry continues to invest in the sector to protect its workers and puts safety first."

The statistics for 2007/08 showed the lowest rate ever recorded for minor three-day lost time injuries, 148, although this number has been roughly the same for the past six years. But major injuries rose from 39 the previous year to 44 in 2007/2008, with the leading causes being slip-and-fall injuries; trapped or struck-by incidents; and injuries associated with lifting/pushing/pulling or swinging loads. HSE said there wer no fatalities in the industry for the first time in three years, but there were 12 deaths in marine operations associated with offshore activities.

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