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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Oil worker deaths ‘could have been avoided’

The Herald
GRAEME SMITH

June 14 2006
 
THE deaths of two workers on a North Sea oil platform could have been avoided, according to claims to be made in a TV documentary tonight.

An engineering professor said that if the company had implemented the recommendations of a senior manager’s safety review, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue might not have lost their lives.

Mr Moncrieff, 45, of Invergowrie, near Dundee, and Mr McCue, 22, of Kennoway in Fife, died after being overcome by a massive release of hydrocarbon gas in September 2003.

Shell was later fined £900,000 after admitting health and safety breaches, including failing to carry out a risk assessment on the platform. There have been two gas escapes on the platform in the past fortnight, although no casualties.

In an interview to be shown on the BBC’s Frontline Scotland programme this evening, former Shell manager Bill Campbell claimed the company failed to implement vital recommendations he made in a 1999 safety review.

Mr Campbell says he carried out a review of seven Shell-operated installations which exposed violations of operating procedures, a backlog of temporary repairs and vital maintenance being ignored, and lies told to conceal it.

Mr Campbell, from Fife, who spent 25 years in the industry, says he was left with a sense of impending doom following his scrutiny of safety regimes on the platforms.

“If you operate offshore installations at dangerously high levels of risk, the implication of that is that a major accident event will happen,” he said. “It is a surprise to me that it took as long as until 2003 before that happened.”

Mr Campbell’s review re-ported that on Brent Bravo some emergency shutdown valves were not closing but, it is claimed, the historic data showed no faults were found. Mr Campbell alleges the data was purposefully falsified to avoid interruption to production while repairs were carried out.

Colin MacFarlane, professor of subsea engineering at Strathclyde University, suggests that if Shell had implemented the recommendations in the safety review, the Brent Bravo fatalities could have been avoided. He said: “If Shell in 1999 had listened to what he said and taken action then, then the two guys would not have died.”

Following the Brent Bravo tragedy, Shell conducted another safety review of all its North Sea platforms. Mr Campbell, who has seen this report, says it paints a more worrying picture of safety levels at Shell installations. He says: “The situation on Brent Bravo had, if anything, worsened, and that situation was now common on 15 offshore installations operated by Shell.”

Mr Campbell claims to have uncovered inaccurate test results, operating equipment in a dangerous condition and neglected maintenance.

A Shell spokeswoman said the company strongly refuted any suggestion it would compromise safety offshore. “Safety is, and will remain, our first priority at all times.
She said the allegations were the opinion of one individual and were examined in an independent investigation in 2005, which found “no evidence that these claims were true”.

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