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UpstreamOnline: ‘Give Scotland control of offshore safety’

By Upstream staff

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has called for the Scottish government to take control of policing the offshore industry, it was reported today.

Salmond claimed yesterday that the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) should report directly to the Scottish government on all aspects of oil and gas installations operating in Scottish waters, a report in the Edinburgh-based Scotsman newspaper said.

He added that the move would make the North Sea a “safer place”.

Salmond made the call a day after a major fire on the Thistle Alpha platform off Shetland and less than a week after a damning report by the HSE on the maintenance of safety-critical systems on some offshore platforms, the Scotsman reported.

Salmond said: “I think the industry has to pay heed to the comments made in that report.

“It is quite possible, particularly with asset transfers and personnel transfers, that some of the expertise and knowledge which kept the infrastructure working safely is in danger of being lost.”

He added: “It would be useful if we were hands-on in every sense. The Scottish government should be responsible for all of Scotland’s resources and the safety of workers who work in these assets and these oil fields.

“Closer management of the situation would benefit the industry, Scotland and workers in the North Sea. In the meantime, we will do our best to prevail on our colleagues south of the border to make sure that, jointly with the HSE and the industry, we address the safety challenge in the waters round Scotland.”

Salmond also backed demands by North Sea union leaders for companies with poor platform maintenance records to be “named and shamed”.

However, Jake Molloy, the general secretary of oil workers’ union the OILC, told the Scotsman: “I don’t think [giving the Scottish government responsibility for HSE operations in Scottish waters] would work. It is much like the Scottish Parliament – a halfway house.

“Health and safety is at the sole direction of Westminster and hiving off part of it to the Scottish government, I don’t think, is going to assist in improving health and safety.”

A spokeswoman for Oil & Gas UK, the pan-industry trade body told the newspaper: “No-one should be in any doubt about the importance that the industry gives to offshore health and safety – no matter where it is regulated from.”

Meanwhile, two separate investigations were launched yesterday into the Thistle Alpha blaze – one by the HSE and the other a joint investigation by the platform’s owners, Lundin Petroleum, and operators Petrofac.

John Methven, director of health and safety for Petrofac, said damage was limited to a turbine and exhaust system in the platform’s power generation module, where the fire began.

27 November 2007 08:30 GMT  | last updated: 27 November 2007 08:30 GMT

http://www.upstreamonline.com/live/article144895.ece

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