RMT raises North Sea safety concerns

RMT raises North Sea safety concerns

9 December 2021

RMT Press Office:

RMT raises safety concerns as Minister admits that one in four inspections found poor safety maintenance standards in the North Sea.

OFFSHORE UNION RMT today raised concerns over the Government’s failure to prevent a deterioration in safety critical and environmental maintenance standards in the offshore oil and gas industry.

In answer to a Written Parliamentary Question tabled by Labour MP for Stockton North, Alex Cunningham, the Government revealed that one in four inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive reveal poor standards of safety maintenance on installations. Since 2019, only 3 out of 67 inspections found full compliance.

RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch said:

“These findings show the escalating threat that commercial pressure and light touch regulation pose to the safety of offshore oil and gas workers.

“On top of these disturbing findings, duty holders including Total and their contractors are chipping away at jobs and terms and conditions when they should be tackling basic safety by clearing maintenance backlogs.

“Our offshore members are facing existential threats to their industry, no Just Transition and declining safety standards in a multiple hazard workplace. RMT called on industry to use the pandemic to clear these dangerous safety critical and environmental backlogs.

“These figures show that some in the offshore industry are going in the opposite direction which increases the risk of a catastrophic safety or environmental incident offshore. RMT will continue to work day and night to prevent this.”

Alex Cunningham MP said:

“It beggars belief that of the HSE offshore inspections over the last three years shows one in four were judged poor or very poor and just three of the 67 were fully compliant. This is totally unacceptable – our offshore workers and their families need to know that their workplaces are safe and fit for purpose.

“It is clear that isn’t the case but my worry is that there could be many more which haven’t been inspected in recent times that may not be at the standard required.

“A more relaxed regime laid down by the Government followed by cuts to required maintenance doubtless led to these failures. It is time for Ministers to tighten up.”


Geoff Martin
07831 465 103

Notes to editors

On 3rd December, the Department for Work and Pensions provided the following answer to written parliamentary question 80982:
Alex Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment she has made of the level of (a) safety critical and (b) environmental maintenance backlogs in the offshore oil and gas industry since January 2019 to date. (80982)

Chloe Smith: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uses its Offshore Safety and Environmental Critical Element (SECE) Management and Verification Inspection Guide when inspecting duty holder compliance in this subject. Maintenance backlogs are covered by the Guide and attract a score. The scores have both numeric and descriptive classifications: unacceptable (60), very poor (50), poor (40), broadly compliant (30), fully compliant (20) and exemplary (10).

In 2019, HSE completed 26 SECE inspections and scored 1 x very poor, 9 x poor, 15 x broadly compliant and 1 x fully compliant. In 2020, there were 22 inspections with 4 x poor, 16 x broadly compliant and 2 x fully compliant scores. Since January 2021, there have been 19 inspections with 3 x poor and 16 x broadly compliant scores. Whenever HSE finds examples of non-compliance, they are raised as issues with the duty holder in a letter, and in some cases a notice. These are then monitored to ensure compliance by the due date.

Recognising the potential impact of the pandemic in 2020, HSE wrote to production installation duty holders with a detailed question set on maintenance and inspection backlogs, which includes several questions on SECE management. This has enabled HSE to assess SECE backlog management for a representative sample of UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) production duty holders. HSE will use the question set again from the start of 2022 as part of its ongoing intervention targeting procedure so that those duty holders that appear not to be managing their SECE backlog effectively can be prioritised for inspection.

The Health and Safety Executive has issued an Improvement Notice to Total’s North Sea contractors following an alarming 57% increase in the backlog of safety critical maintenance work over the last year. At the same time, these employers are also pressing ahead with a redundancy programme amongst maintenance staff on Total’s Gryphon asset.

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Tagged with: Offshore, North Sea, Health and Safety, Safety Critical, Oil, Gas,