Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell Shock: Exclusive Workers Fear Rig Safety Crisis

Feb 17 2008 By Kurt Bayer

A BOSS sent oil workers a foul-mouthed email demanding they do overtime to tackle a safety crisis.

Maintenance head Jim Quinn asked staff on Shell’s Tern platform: “Is this a f****** 1960s car plant or shipyard?”

Quinn, who works for Shell support firm Sigma 3, seems frantic about a backlog of safety work and terrified of action by Government watchdogs.

And he threatens workers with disciplinary action if they do not co-operate.

In his memo, quoted in a staff magazine, he compares working practices with the union-dominated car plants of the 60s.

It read: “Backlog on safety critical systems is at appalling levels and is an issue with the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

“Refusal of any reasonable request to work any overtime is at variance with the contract of employment and as such will be subject to relevant disciplinary procedures. “An HSE report last year criticised maintenance on many North Sea platforms as “unacceptable”.

In January 2006, a fatal accident inquiry found that the deaths of two Shell workers “might reasonably have been prevented”.

The oil giant was fined £900,000 after Keith Moncrieff, 45, and Sean McCue, 22, were overcome by a massive gas escape on a Shell platform in 2003.

Oilworkers’ union officials say they have continually raised concerns about Shell’s backlog of safety work.

Graham Tran, of Unite union, said: “Every time I get a call from Shell I dread somebody is going to tell me there has been a major accident. The situation has become a ticking time bomb, an accident waiting to happen.

“My plea to the HSE is to shut down all Shell platforms before somebody else is injured or killed.”

But bosses at Sigma said the leaked email attributed to Quinn was “factually incorrect”.

They claimed: “The manager does not remember using the word ‘appalling’.

“The safety-critical backlog was not and is not at unacceptable levels.”

A Shell spokesman added: “Safety is our top priority.”

‘Is this a ******* 1960s car plant or shipyard?’

‘Backlog on safety systems is at appalling levels’

Maintenance chief Quinn’s email


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