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Financial Times: Inquiry criticises Shell failings over rig deaths

By Andrew Bolger
Published: July 19 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 19 2006 03:00

Shell, the oil group, has been criticised by a Scottish inquiry over defects and failings after the deaths of two men on the Brent Bravo platform in the North Sea.

A fatal accident inquiry found the deaths of Keith Moncrieff, 45, and Sean McCue, 22, three years ago might have been avoided if the company had dealt properly with a temporary repair on a corroded pipe.

The men went inside one of the legs of the platform to inspect the repair – which had been in place for 10 months – and were overcome by a huge release of hydrocarbon gas.

Sheriff Colin Harris, who conducted the 38-day inquiry in Aberdeen, said the deaths might have been prevented if the temporary repair had been managed and the risk of working in the leg had been properly assessed.

Shell accepted the findings and said it had improved safety procedures as part of a $1bn (£550m) programme to upgrade all its North Sea offshore installations.

Last year the group was fined £900,000 after admitting health and safety breaches, including inadequate maintenance and failing to carry out a risk assessment on the platform.

Shell said yesterday: “Safety is, and will remain, our first priority. In the three years since this tragic incident we have worked hard to understand the root causes of why it happened and have put measures in place to prevent anything like this happening again.”

However, oil unions said they were unhappy with the sheriff’s findings as it contained no recommendations to help prevent such a tragedy happening again.

They called on Cathy Jamieson, Scotland’s justice minister, to implement corporate killing legislation as a matter of urgency. Under the proposed new law, employers could be jailed for workplace deaths through negligence.

Jake Molloy, of the unions’ offshore industry liaison committee, said: “If this reflects what the families of the victims of death at work in Scotland can rely upon through the inquiry process, then it epitomises why we need a review of the Scottish justice system, specifically in relation to death at work.”

Graham Tran, regional officer with the Amicus union, said he was disappointed that the fatal accident inquiry did not have a wider remit and added that an immediate review of offshore safety was needed. “We need accountability in the boardroom as well as on the shopfloor and for directors to be responsible.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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