UK Deepwater Drilling-Implications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill - Energy and Climate Change Contents

Memorandum submitted by the RMT

To what extent is the existing UK safety and environmental regulatory regime fit for purpose?

Offshore Safety Representatives, the need for greater powers

The RMT represent 4,000 workers in the offshore sector.

The powers of offshore safety regulations are set out in the Law. The "Offshore Installations (Safety Representatives and Safety Committees) Regulations 1989" (SI 971) have existed for over 20 years. During this time there have been only minor changes to the regulations.

We believe ample evidence exists today to support a complete revision of these regulations and specifically with regards to enhancing the powers of elected Safety Representatives.

Ever since the SI 971 regulations came into being there has been ongoing debate about improving "workforce involvement" to improve the industry's safety performance. Countless studies and reports have been produced by various groups down the years about the levels of "involvement" and how this might be improved. Today the topic features prominently in the industry driven "Step Change in Safety" forum and the tri-partite group "Offshore Industry Advisory Committee" (OIAC) which includes representatives from HSE, industry and trade unions.

Over the last few years the issue of "workforce involvement" has had greater emphasis as a number of HSE reports have been produced. In 2007 the HSE produced their "Key Programme 3" (KP3) report, which was a three-year inspection initiative looking at "asset integrity".

The HSE findings raised significant concerns regarding the maintenance of safety-critical systems in the industry. In July 2008 after a parliamentary debate, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions commissioned the HSE to conduct a review of the industries progress on asset integrity.

In July 2009 the HSE published their findings, "KP3 - Asset Integrity; A review of industry's progress". A significant section of this report placed great emphasis on the need for greater workforce involvement;

To this end the HSE commenced an inspection programme looking specifically at industry compliance with SI 971 and how effective the regulations are. Surprisingly, there had never been such an inspection previously in the 20 years of HSE being the regulator.

Since KP3 and the subsequent KP3 review, the HSE has launched a new project, "Ageing & Life Extension Inspection Programme" or KP4. As the title suggests, this project will look at the effect of installation ageing and how this is managed to ensure installation integrity and safety critical systems are maintained. Given the obvious HSE concerns about ageing assets, added to the ongoing concerns about asset integrity, we believe that Safety Reps have a fundamental and vital role to play in ensuring that asset integrity issues are properly managed.

If evidence were needed to support the concerns of HSE, we need only consider the fact that Hydrocarbon releases have increased this last reporting year, with major and significant releases up to 85 from 61 the previous year. Additionally, major injuries have also increased during the last reporting year, up to 50 from 30 the previous year. And still fresh in the minds of all are the horrifying pictures of Deepwater Horizon, the deaths of 11 men and the devastation of the US coast in the immediate region.

The SI 971 inspection project report referred to is scheduled to be completed by end November 2010. However, provisional data indicates that almost 80% of installations inspected would need to improve their application of SI 971. (The final report should be available very shortly.

In addition to this inspection programme there has been several "workforce involvement" events organised by a sub-committee of OIAC, the Workforce Involvement Group (WIG), where workers from across the industry have come together to discuss how workforce involvement could be improved. The main finding from these events has been that Safety Reps require further extensive training in order to become effective and therefore fully "involved". There is one further event scheduled for 30th November.

The WIG sub-committee also commissioned a survey of workers during early 2009 asking questions to try and gauge the levels of "involvement" (see KP3 review). This survey found that around 85% of workers felt they were "involved" in safety, however, less than 30% had ever had any involvement and/or consultation in their respective installation Safety Case. It is the Installation Safety Case which determines how the integrity and safety critical systems of an installation are managed. These are the areas which HSE are most concerned about. It therefore follows that where greater workforce involvement in the Safety Case can be achieved, there will be greater scrutiny by the workforce of the areas of concern - platform integrity, safety critical systems and ageing infrastructure. To achieve this, Safety Reps will require further training.

To support the opinion on the need for more training of Safety Reps, the training providers currently running the existing "five-day basic safety rep course" have been consulted and they all report that delegates indicate their desire for more extensive training. After the 30 November WIG event, the group will file a report to OIAC collating all of the information gathered from the HSE inspection report, feedback from the WIG events, and information from the training providers. The WIG group will thereafter be calling on OIAC to make a recommendation to industry that more specialised training for elected Safety Reps should be provided. However, this will only be a "recommendation".

We believe that we need more than a recommendation. We want to see more specialised training become a statutory entitlement, by having it written into the SI971 Regulations and specifically training in: ¾  Principles of Risk Assessment.

¾  Root Cause Analysis - accident/incident investigation.

¾  Major Hazard Awareness.

¾  Development of Safety auditing/Inspection skills.

¾  Communication skills - Presentation; Negotiation; Interpersonal; Meeting Organisation.

Currently under SI 971 there is only a requirement to provide a five-day basic safety rep course, with a clause (Reg 27) suggesting that any other training considered "reasonable" should be provided. This differs significantly from onshore, albeit more extensive training tends to be incorporated into industries where meaningful trade union recognition exists. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the existing offshore recognition arrangements (sweetheart deals with Unite) this route to securing more training is virtually a non-starter.

So, Safety Reps should have the statutory power to insist on more training and we want this incorporated into SI 971. We also believe that once properly trained they should use the existing powers of SI 971 to conduct regular inspections. We believe an additional power should be incorporated into those powers of inspection in the form of the right to issue "Provisional Improvement Notices" (PIN). A Safety Committee or individual Safety Rep should have this statutory power, as we believe this would be a significant deterrent to bad practice and especially when dealing with installation integrity and safety critical issues. The respective installation manager served a PIN should be required to forward the PIN to the next senior onshore manager and the relevant HSE Inspector. It is also important to note that in response to the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico the EU Commissioners are calling for an EU wide standard on health and safety practice, or in industry speak - adoption of best practice in Europe. In line with EU Commissioners calls, we want to see the adoption of the Norwegian standards applicable to safety reps including greater worker involvement, training and also enforcement powers.

December 2010

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