Safety league tables should be published for the UK North Sea, according to Ian Whewell, head of the Health & Safety Executive’s Offshore Safety Division.

He told Energy that this had been raised with the North Sea’s trade body, Oil &Gas UK, but that it could only work if operators agreed to step up to the plate and agreed to individual safety performance being put into the public domain.

Whewell admitted that HSE lacked the teeth needed to force the issue. It had to be voluntary. But tables could encourage greater consistency across the industry, with strong performers inspiring those lower down the table to make more effort. While trade union OILC thought it was an excellent idea – one that would lead to an improvement in safety performance, Oil &Gas UK was more circumspect, saying such an approach amounted to “naming and shaming”.

Whewell disclosed to Energy that, at a post-Offshore Europe meeting with Oil &Gas UK’s board, there was a noticeable change of attitude for the better by the industry’s leadership. At the show, he had accused them of wearing the Step Change Safety Initiative like a “fig leaf” that hid failings – a tough-talking swipe that generated resentment at the time.

“We prefer to proceed on the basis of encouraging people to see the light, but what I said at the Oil &Gas UK board meeting was, as far as I was concerned, my comments were a spark. It’s up to the industry whether that leads to a fire or provides light leading to action,” said Whewell.

“At that board, there was a noticeable change of attitude and recognition that there has been a disconnect, that maybe leadership has been absent and that the industry really needs to get its act together.

“One of my key messages, and this comes out of a report we’ll be publishing in November, the industry is very inconsistent. There are patches of very good performance, but there are very poor performances, too ??? even with the same company. Ironically, they can vary from year to year. No one can afford to rest on their laurels. Once you decide that you’ve got it (safety) solved, that’s the road to destruction, quite frankly.

“What we’re saying, and what the Oil &Gas UK board has accepted, is that they need to share learning across the industry much more effectively; they need to demonstrate leadership in bringing up the poorer performers.”

Whewell said the HSE and Oil &Gas UK top team discussed cross-industry metrics – including whether or not the sector should be publishing the performance of companies through league tables and comparing them.

“This is something the industry could do. They’ve got this information and certainly it’s there in the information that we receive and which we’re prevented from disclosing without the permission of the industry. We put it to Oil &Gas UK that if they’d get the permission of all member companies, we can publish comparative statistics.

“They may not want to step up to the mark, but that’s the challenge we’ve made. Whether or not they do it, one of the challenges we’ve put to them is that if they’re really going to demonstrate leadership and that they really want to make a difference, they’re going to have to bite the bullet and take some pretty brave decisions to demonstrate that.”
12:53 – 05 November 2007 and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.


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