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.
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