By John Donovan
We have been supplied with a copy of a leaked M B Close Visual Inspection Report dated 24 February 2006 carried out for Shell on the Brent Bravo platform. M B Inspection is a major provider of Integrity Engineering, Inspection and other specialist services to the Oil & Gas and Petrochemical Industries.
The M B inspection was performed early in February 2006 on the stairwell of the Brent Bravo platform utility leg where two men, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue, were killed in September 2003. The recent related Fatal Accident Inquiry concluded that their deaths were preventable.
At the time of the M B Inspection, Shell was (and apparently still is), very keen to replace much of the pipe-work in the utility leg. Things like the “oil run down lines” taking produced oil to the storage cells in the bottom of the leg had to be replaced because of ‘wall thinning’. It has been a commercial priority to get this work done in order to get back to full production ASAP.
The work is also part of Shell’s improvement commitments to the UK’s Health & Safety Executive after the deaths, which resulted in the record breaking fine of £900,000 ($1.6 million approx) imposed on Shell, which has admitted responsibility for the HSE offences. The problem Shell faced in February was whether to delay the work on the pipelines to carry out the essential repair work clearly required on the stairwell.
This may not have been such an issue had the elevator in the utility leg been working, but it was inoperative and required/requires major work to bring it back into service.
Shell claims that “safety is our priority”. In fact, the word “safety” was used no less than 18 times in an email dated 17 July 2006 sent by Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer, “to all Shell employees” to signify the great importance he supposedly attaches to safety issues.
Bearing these claims in mind and the tragic history of Brent Bravo in particular, you might reasonably expect that safety considerations would indeed be paramount. Apparently not so!
Despite the damning findings of the M D Inspection Report, nothing was done. Shell has continued to put men up and down the stairway round the clock in order to push the pipeline work on. This went on until mid-July (about four weeks ago) with the workforce completely ignorant of the dangers they faced as the inspection report had been ‘buried’. Then, after workers noticed movement on the stairs as they climbed out one day, Shell management was forced to act.
This development, coupled with the leaking of the M D Inspection Report, with its truly horrifying photograph evidence, finally forced their hand. The Health & Safety Executive have apparently issued an Improvement Notice on Shell forcing Shell to carry out extensive repairs on the stairwell.
Shell senior managers claim they were in the dark about the M D Inspection Report and have apparently initiated an internal investigation to determine why it was not acted on at the time. Nothing surprising there: a further helping of the “blind eye culture” culture of Shell management.
This is another manifestation of the deeply ingrained corporate culture of spin, cover-up and deceit which resulted in the reserves fraud which destroyed the reputation of Shell and brought about the unification into Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The only problem is that some of the same discredited incompentent executive directors tainted by past scandals remain at the helm of Shell.
Whilst discussing fraud and scandal, it is worth recalling that according to the former Shell International Group Auditor, Mr Bill Campbell, his official investigation in 1999 discovered that ESDV leak-off tests were purposely falsified, not once, but many times. He has also alleged that the inaction of members of Shell management, including the Managing Director of Shell Expro in 1999, Malcolm Brinded, contributed to the unlawful killings.
The “blind eye culture” by Shell senior management mentioned above, has been described by Bill Campbell as “a hostile environment of extreme denial”. These shocking events provide concrete proof of the extent to which Royal Dutch Shell management will go to maximise profits, while ignoring the risks for the workers at the coal face tasked with the work to achieve Shell’s goals.
That immoral policy cannot be allowed to continue.
The disgraced “Sir” Philip Watts, the crook at the helm of Shell until March 2004, still ended up with a severance package worth $18.5 million and indemnification against any legal claims arising from his misdeeds at Shell.
Workers lives must be put before the greed and ambition of Shell senior managers intent on acquiring untold riches and a knighthood provided they display sufficient ruthlessness.