Memorandum submitted by the Offshore Industry
Liaision Committee (OILC)
1.1 Our comments and the supporting evidence
are confined to the regulation of the UK Offshore oil and gas
production industry. Our comments are therefore confined to the
work of the Offshore Division (OSD) of the HSE and the offshore
policy division of HSC. We believe that, to date, both bodies
have been unable to effect any significant improvements in reducing
risks to the health and safety of offshore workers. Specifically
we would point to:
1.1.1 There has been little or no improvement
in major accident/fatality and incident rates over the last 12
1.1.2 The regulatory and enforcement strategy
adopted for the offshore industry tends to overemphasise major
hazards at the expense of effective control of the day to day
hazards faced by the workforce.
1.1.3 OSD often appears reluctant to take
formal enforcement action, namely the issuing of Improvement or
Prohibition Notices, to address regulatory breaches. We would
argue that, on occasion, their enforcement practice is not consistent
with the HSC's stated policy of proportionate enforcement, as
reflected in HSE's Enforcement Management Model (EMM)
1.1.4 OSD appear unable or unwilling to
engage the offshore workforce in promoting a safe working environment.
We believe the statutory requirements for workforce consultation
could be properly implemented as a means of improving this. For
many offshore workers OSD appears more concerned with maintaining
a close working relationship with industry management.
1.1.5 OSD/HSC often appear a "captive
regulator". This perception is borne out of the belief the
safety agenda and policy is being set by the industry. The workforce
and their Trade Union representatives have had little influence
on the agenda.
1.1.6 There is a lack of "joined up
government" in the overall approach to the promotion of health
and safety. Here the entire industry operates under licenses granted
by the Crown, yet the individual safety performance of operating
companies does not appear to be a factor in selecting licensees.
Indeed when OSD/HSE recently reported that it had evidence that
many companies were not properly maintaining their installations,
the report failed to provide the details of those offenders.
1.2 Despite these criticisms we believe
that OSD/HSC could be an effective regulator if it were to adopt
a policy of fair, impartial enforcement of existing offshore health
and safety regulations, coupled with greater transparency in reporting.
2.1 We recommend that:
2.1.1 Enforcement by OSD/HSE should be in
accordance with the principles of the HSE "Enforcement Management
Model" (EMM). Transparency of this process could be ensured,
for example, by requiring Inspectors to write to Installation
Safety Representatives on all occasions where a regulatory breach
has not resulted in the issue of an enforcement Notice, explaining
2.1.2 General consultation with the industry
on all technical and enforcement issues should be under the auspices
of the existing tri-partite Oil Industry Advisory Committee (OIAC)
and should involve workforce representatives.
2.1.3 The existing legislation on Safety
Representatives roles and functions on offshore installations
should be revised. This revision should be conducted under the
auspices of OIAC.
3. THE OFFSHORE
3.1 The Offshore Industry Liaison Committee
(OILC) is an independent Trade Union. It is not affiliated to
3.2 Like all trade unions OILC is established
to promote the interests of its members. This includes the advocacy
of better pay and working conditions, stable long-term employment
and the health, safety and welfare of its members.
3.3 OILC is unlike other trades unions in
a number of ways.
3.3.1 We are a single industry union. We
draw our membership only from the upstream Exploration & Production
(E&P) sector of the oil and gas industry and we are largely
dedicated to employment within the UK offshore based sector of
the industry. Most of the membership work offshore on the UKCS
as at least part of their employment. Many are full time offshore
employees. Members can be found in a wide range of roles from
experienced professionals to new recruits in semi-skilled trades.
3.3.2 Although OILC is not recognised by
any employer, its membership comprises about 10% of the offshore
workforce (3,000 out of 27,000). Given that the union is not recognised
by any employer, it can be assumed the members are activists concerned
with bettering employment conditions rather than the semi-inert
who sometimes join "recognised" unions.
3.3.3 Although OILC has only two full time
staff, we can mobilise the knowledge and experience of our members
to analyse issues and assist the union. We can and do make substantial
contributions to the debate on offshore health and safety and
other employment issues and regularly punch above our weight.
3.3.4 We are non-political. We sponsor no
MPs. We tend not agitate on general broad social issues. We will,
however, take an active part in single issue campaigns that affect
our members. An obvious example is our participation in ongoing
debate on corporate responsibility.
3.4 Promotion of the health and safety of
our members and others in the workforce is an important part of
our activities and the one for which the union is perhaps best
known. It is not, however, our only or even our overriding interest.
We also support our individual members on a wide range of employment
issues and, more generally, advocate improvements in all Industrial
Relations matters that affect our members. Many, but not all,
of these IR concerns have important health and safety dimensions.
We may share common safety goals with industry and regulator but
these must be put into the context of the overall interests of
our members. That said we will never accept the `elf 'n safety'
excuse for poor management, or mistreatment of our members.
4.1 We expect HSC/HSE to discharge the duties
given to them by Parliament in Section 1 of the Health and Safety
at Work etc. Act namely:
"securing the health, safety and welfare
of persons at work"
nothing more, nothing less.
4.2 We expect HSC/HSE to use the powers
given to it under the Act and all the resources granted to them
by the Government to secure that aim for the offshore industry.
We accept that it may be appropriate for HSE to give priority
to the aim of the HSE mission statement in the Strategy to 2010:
"To protect peoples health and safety
by ensuring that risks in the changing workforce are properly
even if this is at the expense of some aspects
of welfare to the offshore workforce.
4.3 For all of the reasons set out in the
"summary" of this submission, we believe that HSC/HSE
has thus far failed to effectively discharge its duties to the
UK offshore E & P industry and moreover its workforce. The
inability to engage with the workforce; being perceived as a captured
regulator; an apparent reluctance to use enforcement powers; and
the lack of transparency in reporting and reluctance to be held
to account to all stakeholders, all detract further from the ability
of the HSE/HSC to achieve its stated goals. We base these criticisms
on hard evidence, most of which can be found in HSE publications,
including published injury and incident statistics, the `HSE Offshore
Health and Safety Strategy to 2010' (HSE Offshore Strategy) and
"Key Programme 3Asset Integrity Programme" (KP3).
5. LACK OF
5.1 HSE assumed responsibility for offshore
safety from the then Department of Energy on 1 April 1991. The
first years of HSE stewardship were spent in recruiting and organising
an enlarged inspectorate and in establishing a new legislative
framework. By 1996 the current system was fully in place.
5.2 HSE does not control all the hazards
to the offshore workforce. It has no authority over aviation matters
although helicopter accidents are the biggest single cause of
fatalities to the offshore workforce. In the period 1989 to 2005
a total of 28 workers were killed in helicopter accidents out
of a total of 71 reported deaths in offshore work in the UK.
5.3 While lead indicators are of use, our
view is that the only justification for H&S regulation is
a demonstrated reduction in injury and ill-health. The best measure
of the effectiveness of OSD/HSC as a safety regulator is the change
in reported offshore injuries and dangerous incidents. This approach
is used by OSD/HSC who frequently use trends in injury rates to
argue for the effectiveness of their stewardship of offshore safety.
On this basis OSD/HSC have had little effect on offshore safety.
5.4 OILC has published an analysis of HSE's
own published offshore injury and incident statistics.
This shows little or no improvement in the bellwether combined
rate of fatal and major injuries. For example, in 1995-96 offshore
workers suffered 47 fatal or major injuries and in 2006-07 the
same workforce suffered 41 fatal or major injuries. This apparent
small improvement is in part due to the reduction in the exposure
of the offshore workforce and the equivalent injury rates per
million hours worked actually increased from 0.70 in 1995-96 to
0.72 in 2006-07.
5.5 This apparent static position over 12
years masks an initial large deterioration in fatal and major
injury rates from 1995-96 to 1998-99 and the subsequent slow recovery
to 1996 levels.
5.6 In fairness, OSD/HSC have had some success
in reducing the numbers of less serious injuries, albeit the reporting
of these injury types are historically difficult to substantiate.
However, and assuming there has been improvement, this does not
compensate for the failure to even maintain the rate of fatal
and major injuries at 1996 levels throughout the last 12 years.
By our analysis, had HSE maintained all injury rates at 1996 levels,
the costs of injury to the industry would have been lower by several
million pounds. This is an admittedly trivial sum in the context
of the budget for OSD/HSC but does suggest the HSE have not made
effective use of the substantial extra funding made available
to it from 1991.
5.7 Further evidence of this apparent inability
to bring about improvements in safety performance can be found
in the recent OSD/HSE report on the physical condition of offshore
In late 2007, OSD/HSE reported the results of 83 visits to offshore
installations made from 2004 to 2007. These visits were made for
the purpose of assessing the physical condition of the plant and
the quality of the maintenance management systems. The report
found serious short comings in the condition of safety critical
plant on many installations, which vindicates the complaints of
poor maintenance of offshore plant and industry short-termism
made by OILC and other critics of the industry since the late
1990's. Again it is clear that OSD/HSE has not been able to establish
that essential work has been done to ensure the control of risks.
6. EMPHASIS ON
6.1 The transfer of responsibility for offshore
safety in 1991 arose from recommendations made by Lord Cullen
following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. As part of the new
offshore safety legislation, OSD/HSE introduced the Offshore Installation
(Safety Case) Regulations. These came into effect in 1995 and
placed emphasis on the control of so-called Major Accident Hazards
(MAH). These were catastrophic events such as fire and explosions
and structural collapse with the potential to cause multiple casualties.
Oil companies and drilling contractors were required to prepare
`Safety Cases' setting out how they would ensure compliance with
health and safety regulations. In addition the Safety Case set
out the arrangements for controlling MAH. Unsurprisingly a great
deal of time and effort was spent by both the industry and OSD/HSE
in evaluating and inspecting control measures for these MAH often
at the expense of the control of less "glamorous" hazards.
In essence the main effort was placed on avoiding large multi-injury
but rare accidents, at the expense of the control of everyday
common workplace hazards.
6.2 While Safety Cases must be accepted
by OSD/HSE if an offshore installation is to operate, the Safety
Case regime does nothing to ensure adequate control of risks.
The Safety Case regime has been little more than an ineffective
series of paper exercises. In fact, new or revised Safety Cases
are accepted even if the dutyholder has a history of failing to
comply with the arrangements to control risks, arrangements which
invariably were included in previous Safety Case submissions.
6.3 The concentration on major accident
hazards does not reflect the real risks to the offshore workforce.
Of the 13 offshore fatalities from April 2000 to date (discounting
the 18 helicopter and 15 shipping deaths) only two were associated
with major accident hazards. The offshore workforce are being
killed and maimed by falls, dropped objects, crushing and the
like but not by massive explosions or structural failures. The
fundamental causes of these injury types are not effectively addressed
in the safety case exercises.
6.4 The implementation of the Safety Case
regime places too much emphasis on the paper assessment of management
systems without a corresponding effort to ensure that they are
properly implemented in the field. Policies and procedures coupled
with poorly researched lead indicators do not prevent accidents,
only detailed, time consuming inspection does. OSD/HSC seems to
lack the ability or will, or more likely the resources, to ensure
that the arrangements to control risks as set out in the Safety
Case are implemented.
6.5 We suggest that OSD/HSE effort would
be better devoted to frequent detailed unannounced inspection
of operations in the field, coupled with proportionate enforcement
7. FORMAL ENFORCEMENT
7.1 HSE Inspectors are appointed to bring
into effect the Health and Safety at Work Act and its relevant
statutory provisions. They do this by a process of enforcement.
This enforcement includes giving formal and informal advice, serving
formal Notices requiring that breaches of regulation are remedied
and ultimately prosecution. The HSC has set out a policy of effective
proportionate enforcement for all industries. Guidance on the
application of this policy is given in an Enforcement Management
7.2 There is evidence which suggests the
approach to enforcement for the offshore industry is rather more
relaxed than would be expected if the standards of the EMM were
impartially applied. While it may be laudable to lead sinners
to repentance, it must be acknowledged it may also be necessary
to cast the recalcitrant into hell-fire. OILC and our members
have seen examples over many months or even years of very similar
unsafe practices within the same company. Too often they have
attracted no more action from OSD/HSE inspectors than perhaps
some written advice.
7.3 We might almost believe that, in some
cases, enforcement was conducted to some well established script.
First the workforce complain of some safety concern; they are
ignored and their concerns are derided by dutyholder management.
Then OSD inspect or investigate and accept the concerns were justified.
Assurances of improvement are given by the dutyholder, but these
assurances are not honoured. Nothing is done, the same problem
reappears, more complaints are made, more assurances are given
and so the cycle continuesuntil someone is dismissed, injured,
or worst case scenario, killed.
7.4 The OSD Inspectors often appear reluctant
to take such conduct into account in their dealings with dutyholders.
They do not seem to understand that leopards rarely change their
spotseven when subject to an Improvement Notice. The principle
must surely be that Inspectors do not accept assurances from those
dutyholders who have failed to honour previous undertakings. The
impression given to the workforce and observers is that compliance
is regarded as an unpopular and unnecessary option by both industry
7.5 This pattern is exactly what happened
on Brent Bravo. The Brent Field operator, Shell, had been the
subject of workforce complaints since 1998 that equipment was
not being properly maintained. A Shell internal audit in 1999
showed that key procedures and arrangements set out in the Safety
Cases for many platforms were being ignored. Complaints continued
through 2000-03 and in September 2003 two men were killed in an
accident on Brent B. As part of the investigation OSD became aware
of the 1999 audit and that many of the deficiencies found then
had not been remedied. Many Shell operated platforms were not
complying with the law or with their submitted Safety Cases. OSD
did nothing. They subsequently accepted a number of Safety Cases
submitted by Shell despite knowing that safety arrangements set
out in previous Safety Cases had been ignored and that undertakings
from Shell management were meaningless. Further evidence of non-compliance
with Shell's safety arrangements was found in 2004 but little
was done. By mid 2005 an internal OSD e-mail confirmed that on
many Shell operated platforms little or no progress had been made
to remedy serious safety defects found in 2003.
7.6 More evidence for this apparent reluctance
to enforce can be found in the KP3 Report on Asset Integrity.
For almost 10 years OILC, other Unions and other interested bodies
had complained of poor maintenance of offshore installations.
OSD/HSE had investigated these on various occasions and on each
had agreed action with the responsible oil company. In late 2007,
OSD/HSE reported on the results of 83 inspections of maintenance
arrangements and plant condition on offshore installations. Some
installations were visited more than once and the report represents
the state of rather less than half the total number of offshore
installations. Nevertheless, the sample is sufficiently large
be representative of the general condition of UK offshore installations.
The Inspectors looked at 32 "elements" of maintenance
management and physical plant condition. Not all elements were
examined on each visit. Fourteen elements covered actual tests
of Safety Critical plant. Of particular concern are the results
testing three important safety critical systems. These are; fire
pumps, deluge systems and Temporary Refuge Heating Ventilation
Air Conditioning (HVAC) dampers. If there is a fire on an offshore
platform all these must work to protect those on board. On Piper
Alpha, the failure of deluge systems and smoke entry into the
accommodation contributed to the high death toll. OSD/HSE report
on tests of these systems made during some of their visits. Tests
were not conducted on all visits. Indeed all 3 systems were tested
on only 6 inspections. Only HVAC dampers were tested on more than
half the visits (56). A third of these tests showed major failures
or non-compliance with regulation. Deluge was tested on only 20%
of visits but again a third of tests resulted in a major failure.
On two platforms tests found major failures of both HVAC dampers
and deluge. Where HVAC dampers or deluge systems were not functioning
would, in our opinion, require immediate action by OSD/HSE to
ensure the safety of the workforce. There is no evidence that
this was done.
8. ENGAGING THE
8.1 The offshore workforce is mobile with
substantial casualisation. The main method used by OSD to engage
the workforce is through their elected safety representatives.
Since 1989 there has been a statutory system of safety representatives
on offshore installations. These representatives are not appointed
by Trades Unions but elected by the workforce. Installation owners
are required to consult these representatives on certain matters.
8.2 This system has proved ineffective.
Many installations have far too few properly trained safety representatives
for effective representation of concerns or for meaningful consultation
to occur. Consultation is superficial and workforce concerns are
8.3 OSD/HSC appear reluctant to take action
to ensure that safety representatives are appointed, properly
trained, properly consulted, or protected. We know of no enforcement
action related to the appointment, training, consultation with,
or victimisation of safety representatives.
8.4 OSD/HSC appear to think that introducing
legislation is all that is required. This is ineffective unless
clear standards are set and enforced for the work of safety representatives
and in particular for consultation.
8.5 We suggest that the minds of industry
could be better concentrated on this issue if OSD/HSC were to
use the existing regulatory powers to "encourage" effective
consultation and with it greater workforce involvement. As Lord
Cullen put it in his report after the Piper Alpha tragedy; "The
representation of the workforce in regard to safety matters is
important not merely for what it achieves on installations but
also for the effect which it has on the morale of the workforcein
showing that their views are taken into account and that they
are making a worthwhile contribution to their own safety."
9.1 To us "regulatory capture"
occurs when the agenda for a Regulator is substantially influenced
by the industry it regulates. We accept that HSE is at present
a tripartite body and must by law seek the views of the industries
it regulates. It has well established mechanisms to do so but
these are not intended to favour the industry and its needs at
the expense of the interests of the workforce. For the offshore
industry there is evidence that industry interests drive the priorities
and activities of OSD/HSE.
9.2 Specific examples include:
9.2.1 The membership by OSD/HSE of industry
advocacy groups such as PILOT and the use of HSE resources in
support of their aims. The aims of those bodies, even if they
coincide with the interests of the Crown as owner of the reserves
of oil and gas exploited by the industry, are not those that HSC/HSE
was established by law to promote. Her Majesty and Her Ministers
may safely be assumed to be able to safeguard Crown interests
without the assistance of HSC/HSE.
9.2.2 HSE's published Offshore Strategy
gives the impression that OSD/HSE appear more concerned that their
activities might inconvenience the industry rather than enforcing
the message that safety is good business. No impartial regulator
should tell us that:
"The contribution of oil and gas to the
UK economy is enormous"
"Interruption of supply, for example
through adverse unplanned events such as serious injury, accident
or a hydrocarbon escape has a huge financial impact and potential
social consequences. Therefore as well as being a high hazard
industry, the offshore industry is still an important part of
the UK's social and economic system"
Whatever the meaning intended by the author,
such language can only suggest that, to HSE, production comes
first before the interests of the environment, the community or
the workforce. We see little by way of a strong commitment to
give health and safety issues any substantial weight, let alone
to treat them as the first priority as industry pressure groups
9.2.3 The practice of OSD/HSE holding regular
meetings with oil company and contractor senior management to
discuss and agree enforcement initiatives without any workforce
9.2.4 The apparent acceptance of OSD/HSE
that to enforce safety regulation would result in an undesirable
non-cooperation by the industry.
10. LACK OF
10.1 All offshore oil and gas reserves are
owned by the Crown. Oil companies are licensed to explore for
and produce oil and gas. They are, in effect, government contractors.
The activities of these contractors are supervised by three sets
of regulators. Technical matters are dealt with by the DTI, safety
by OSD/HSC and environmental matters by the appropriate English
or Scottish Agency. This, of itself, is not conducive to proper
10.2 Our concern is that licences appear
to be awarded without any consideration of the way in which potential
licensees conduct their business. We complain above that many
companies give meaningless undertakings on health and safety matters.
They cannot be relied on to honour commitments. It would be reasonable
to assume that a company that fails to honour undertakings given
to one government department would also fail to honour undertakings
given to another. Such companies are not fit to be awarded offshore
production licences yet it appears this simple observation does
not figure in the considerations of the DTI when awarding licences.
58 Review of Offshore Injury and Incident Statistics
1991-2006-An OILC Discussion Paper Back
Key Programme 3-Asset Integrity Programme (KP3), www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/kp3.pdf Back