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Press & Journal (Aberdeen): CAIRNS DEFENDS HSE, AMID CRITICISM FROM OFFSHORE UNIONS

IAN FORSYTH: 08:50 – 24 August 2006
 
Scotland Office Minister David Cairns defended the performance of the Health and Safety Executive in UK waters.

Mr Cairns, who was attending an ONS press conference yesterday, was asked if the HSE was up to carrying out its role, in light of recent criticism.

He replied: “I have no reason at all to doubt the competency of the HSE.”

In July, a union leader called for a thorough inquiry into the role of the HSE on North Sea oil and gas platforms.

Graham Tran, regional officer for Amicus, claimed the HSE had neither the resources nor the independence it needed to improve and police safety offshore. Mr Tran spoke as representatives from the T &G, RMT and OILC unions met a top HSE official to raise their general concerns about safety following the conclusion of a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two men on Shell’s Brent Bravo platform.

Union officials had flagged up fears about offshore safety just weeks before the tragic incident on September 11, 2003.

The HSE carried out a full investigation, but – despite identifying some areas for improvement – concluded there were no imminent risks to the health and safety of workers.

The HSE was criticised for not taking steps that could have prevented the accident, but the organisation claimed it had received no complaints specific to Brent Bravo.

Also at yesterday’s press conference, Mr Cairns would not be drawn on whether the Government would provide tax breaks to help with building the infrastructure needed to bring gas ashore from west of Shetland. He added: “I’m not going to be specific on that. Any tax changes will be announced by the chancellor in due course.”

Some exhibitors at ONS were left in the dark for a short time yesterday afternoon after a power cut hit several of the halls. But it was soon business as usual, as the electricity supply was reconnected within 30 minutes.
 
Your Views 

Comments Posted By John Donovan

As a long term Shell shareholder I am extremely concerned by the serious allegations made by the former Shell International Group Auditor, Mr Bill Campbell, concerning alleged falsification of records in relation to the Shell Brent tragedy.

We really cannot have a distinguished former high level Shell official being allowed to make such accusations without Shell taking action against him for defamation if, as Shell claims, the allegations are untrue. This is not a case of some outsider ignorant of the facts making wild accusations. The charges in this case are being made by a person of high reputation and considerable expertise following his authorised investigation as Group Auditor into the Shell Brent safety regime.

Since a number of “accidental” deaths have occurred on Brent Bravo, two of which resulted in a record breaking £900,000 fine imposed on Shell, the allegation of falsification of records could result in criminal charges if true. Mr Campbell is on record as claiming that he has personally met with the Chief Executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Mr Jeroen van der Veer, to discuss these matters.

If this is correct, then Mr Van der Veer must be fully briefed on the issues and the allegations he has publicly made. They have been repeated in various mass media sources and in trade publications including, for example, UpstreamOnline.

Mr Campbell says that ESDV leak-off tests were purposely falsified, not once but many times. He further alleges that the inaction of the relevant Asset Manager, the General Manager, the Oil Director and the Shell Expro Managing Director in 1999 (Malcolm Brinded), contributed in some part to the alleged unlawful killing of two persons on Brent Bravo in September 2003. Surely Shell is not going to allow Mr Campbell to continued repeating these devastating allegations?

If they are unfounded, why has Shell not already instituted libel proceedings? If they are true, why has Mr Malcolm Brinded not been sacked? Why has he not done the honourable thing and resigned? The fact that Shell has not obtained an injunction to prevent Mr Campbell making his allegations speaks volumes. One has to conclude that he is plainly a man of great courage who is speaking the truth. Nothing else can explain Shell?s lack of legal action against him.

John Donovan, UK

1 Comment on “Press & Journal (Aberdeen): CAIRNS DEFENDS HSE, AMID CRITICISM FROM OFFSHORE UNIONS”

  1. #1 David C Richmond
    on Aug 26th, 2006 at 07:41

    Mr Cairns states at a press conference in Stavanger he has no reason at all to doubt the “Competency of the HSE”. Well he would wouldn’t he!
    From this statement it must be concluded that Mr Cairns has been so busy doing his job as a Scottish Minister he has had no time to read or listen to any of the outcry in the media regarding Offshore Safety or lack of it. Especially regarding the recent happening on his own doorstep, which surely must extend to the North Sea Oil and Gas Operations and Shells Brent fatal accidents in particular?

    He should be guided to http://www.royaldutchshellplc.com and update his knowledge base of the shortfall perceived by Unions and Offshore Staff throughout the North Sea of the HSE. Shell in particular failed to comply with the HSE approved Operational Safety Case, did not maintain critical ESD valves, changed leak off test rates without the correct level of approvals, resorted to using strips neoprene and garden hose clips to repair corrosion of hydrocarbon pipe work, Fire pumps below capacity left unrepaired, vast areas of the platforms Fire and Gas detection systems either isolated or not working correctly, happily continued Producing Millions of cubic feet of gas and oil. Where were the HSE when all this was happening I wonder?

    This state of affairs continued un-abated until one of these “Mickey Mouse” repairs failed, an un-repaired ESD did not function and two ordinary Offshore Workers tragically died.

    The HSE are tasked to be the Regulators of Offshore Operations and compliance with approved Safety Cases. Currently the HSE is sitting on its hands in Lord Cullen House not implementing its own guidance documents for the Enforcement of Offshore Operators Safety Cases and their compliance with. See link to HSE’s procedural guidance documents http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/emm.pdf http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsc15.pdf This includes visits to Offshore to ensure that the Office based records are fact and not fiction. Talking to people at the “coalface” is a rich source of the real situation.

    Perhaps the HSE should be proactive instead of reactive, that of course is a harder task and requires a higher level of competence -despite Mr Cairns misplaced confidence in the HSE. How many lives are going to be lost before proper action is taken on the side of worker safety, as opposed to oil company profits and related revenues generated for the government?

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