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The Times: Unions call for manslaughter law after Shell deaths inquiry

By Carl Mortished
OFFSHORE oil unions have called for corporate manslaughter legislation in Scotland after the conclusion of a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two workers on a Shell North Sea platform.

The six-month investigation into the deaths on Brent Bravo in September 2003 concluded that the accident could have been avoided if Shell had done a proper repair of a pipe. The inquiry did not draw any wider conclusion from its finding. The OILC union said yesterday that Shell had been given a “Get out of Jail Free card”. 
The victims, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue, died from a huge gas escape from an illegal repair to a corroded pipe when they descended into the concrete leg of the platform to make an inspection. The repair, done with neoprene rubber and a hose clip, was against regulations, the inquiry found.

In 2004, Shell admitted three breaches of health and safety rules and was fined £900,000. It said yesterday that it accepted the inquiry findings.

Concern about North Sea safety and the condition of rusting platforms grew last month when Bill Campbell, a former Shell engineer, revealed details of a platform safety maintenance review done in 1999 on Brent Bravo. His audit team found widespread violations of safety procedures and alleged falsification of records.

Mr Campbell, who retired from Shell in 2002, believes that the Brent Bravo deaths could have been prevented had the company responded adequately to his finding that platform maintenance was being delayed to sustain oil and gas output. He tried to put his evidence to the inquiry, but the presiding sheriff declined to admit it on the ground that it was beyond the inquiry’s scope.

Shell says that it accepted the 1999 audit’s findings and responded with improvements, although it said that subsequent inquiries found no verifiable evidence of falsification by platform management.

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