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News

Safety must remain top priority offshore

HSE InfoLine : 27 November, 2003  (Company News)
Minister for Work Des Browne today praised the success of the safety case regime in making the UK offshore industry a safer place to work and stressed the importance of ensuring the regime remains up-to-date and relevant in the future.
Speaking at a conference in Aberdeen sponsored by the Health and Safety Executive and the industry, Des Browne said: 'The safety case regime has worked well. Offshore companies are now much more accountable for health and safety and there is no doubt that the industry is now safer than it was ten years ago when the regime was introduced.

'Although the safety case regime is still effective, research shows that the main benefits from its introduction were achieved in the early years. The regime needs to be updated to meet the circumstances of a mature oil and gas province and new challenges to offshore health and safety.'

Des Browne pointed to issues such as ageing infrastructure; maintenance management; staff reductions and new players entering the UK Continental Shelf as examples of such challenges.

'The North Sea and other offshore areas remain hazardous places to work and safety must remain the top priority. The structure of the industry, patterns of employment and expectations of society are all changing, and legislation needs to change too,' Des Browne continued.

'This conference is proof of the open and co-operative relationship that we want to achieve, between HSE, as the independent health and safety regulator, and the industry. A working relationship based on trust, openness and on-going dialogue is vital to ensure the safe operation of the offshore industry.'

The conference is intended to provide industry with the opportunity to participate at a formative stage in a review of the safety case regulations being undertaken by HSE before more formal consultation takes place next year. HSE will explain where it considers the regulations could be improved, while the industry will contribute practical experience of operating the regime as it stands currently, as well as looking ahead to what may be required in the future.

Taf Powell, head of HSE's Offshore Division, said: 'This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Piper Alpha tragedy and the tenth anniversary of implementing the safety case regulations on Lord Cullen's recommendation. The outlook of the industry today is very different from ten years ago, and I'm convinced we can improve the impact of the safety case regime on preventing another major accident from occurring and help to secure a safe and long-term future for the UKCS for those that work on it and for all the stakeholders in this important industry.'

Greg Hill, Production Director at Shell EP Europe and a member of the industry's Step Change in Safety initiative said: 'The offshore safety case regime has come to be seen as the centerpiece of a suite of regulations that are at the forefront of the management of major accident hazards within the UK offshore industry. The approach has been adopted by other UK industries as well as the oil and gas industry worldwide.

'However, new exploration and production techniques have become available and new partnership arrangements are being developed between operators and contractors. We need to ensure that the regime can accommodate these developments.'
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