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UK North Sea Oil Safety Incidents Hit Record Low-Watchdog

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

AUGUST 6, 2009, 3.53 A.M. ET

LONDON (Dow Jones)–The U.K.’s workplace safety regulator said accidents on oil platforms have fallen to their lowest level since at least 1991 but it added that fatalities during related air and sea operations showed risks remained.

Aging infrastructure has led to incidents, including a fatal one at a Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) platform in 2003, and inspired efforts to improve safety.

In a press statement the HSE reported “both the combined fatal and major injury rate and major hydrocarbon releases at their lowest since the Health and Safety Executive [HSE] began regulating the industry” 28 years ago.

“There was a fall in major injuries with 30 reported, a fall of 14 compared with 2007/08 figures,” the HSE added in the release Wednesday.

“No workers were killed while working offshore during 2008/09 – the second consecutive year with no fatalities,” it said.

The HSE said the “number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases, regarded as potential precursors to an incident, also showed marked improvement with 61 in 2008/09 compared with 74 in 2007/08.”

However, HSE chairman Judith Hackitt said the statistics were “overshadowed by the tragic events of 1 April when the Super Puma helicopter crashed with the loss of 16 passengers.” The same day, in a separate incident, a worker received fatal injuries aboard a dive support vessel in transit.

“Even though HSE’s remit does not extend to air and marine transport activities, these incidents show that hazards are ever present offshore,” she said.

Hackitt said the “industry must not take its eye of the ball. Investment in safety must continue despite the current economic climate putting a squeeze on resources,” she said.

-By Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones Newswires; +44-20-7842-9266; [email protected]

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