Daily Mail: 23 June 2006
CITY & FINANCE
Telephone: 0207938 6000
By Brian O’Connor
Shell shocker: The group ‘strongly refutes’ the allegations about the North Sea field: ‘We accept there is still much to do’
OIL giant Shell ignored safety warnings on its key Brent Held in the North Sea, according to one of its former auditors.
He claims that over many years,’ top executives put safety second to meeting output targets.
Shell’s Expro arm allegedly sanctioned a policy known as TPA (Touch **** All), stopping any work that might interrupt production.
The auditor Bill Campbell accuses the company of usingr false safety figures and manipulating performance measures.
He says an audit team was told that Shell was complying 1OOpc with safety rules when the figure was 14pc.
Shell ‘strongly refutes’ these allegations. ‘Safety is Shell’s strongest priority. We absolu
tely reject any suggestion that we would compromise safety offshore,’ the company said.
The issue is highly sensitive ahead of an official report, now imminent, into the deaths of two workers on Shell’s Brent Bravo platform in 2003.
Shell sent Campbell in four years earlier to review concerns about incidents at two other platforms. His audit highlighted serious management failures.
Campbell, who worked for Shell for 24 years, was removed from the audit team after a meeting to discuss his findings. One of these was that water from fire pumps was being diverted to help with drilling.
Industry newspaper Upstream, which has reported extensively on the issues, says they make ‘very uncomfortable reading’ for Shell’s UK chief Malcolm Brinded. Shell rejects any criticism of individuals.
Has safety improved? Critics say deaths in UK North Sea fields are much higher than those in Norwegian fields.
Upstream says a Shell audit in 2003 after the deaths showed standards had worsened. A Health & Safety Executive memorandum in May 2005 suggested persistent problems.
In April 2005, Shell was fined £900,000 at Stonehaven Sheriff Court after admitting safety breaches.
Campbell said: ‘The safety regime was failing workers offshore. I wanted to get this heard, not to punish people, but so that people could look at the failings of the system and come up with improvements.’
Shell said: ‘The 1999 review was commissioned by Shell to establish what further safety improvements were required.
Improvement areas were found and an action plan implemented, with full senior management support.
A follow-up audit a year later confirmed that progress was being made against the review findings.
Safety is highly topical in the oil industry. In the US, BP could face criminal probes following the fatal Texas City refinery explosion and pipeline leaks in Alaska.