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Shell offshore workers died as a result of a “Touch F*** All” safety regime


Shell offshore workers died as a result of Brinded’s “Touch F*** All” safety regime

Published by John Donovan of Oct 2009

A criminal investigation is currently underway in Scotland relating to alleged corruption allegations involving Shell and officials of the Health & Safety Executive. The investigation follows an email a retired former HSE Group Auditor of Shell International sent to over 600 UK Members of Parliament.

Bill Campbell explained in his email (reprinted below) how the lives of Shell employees working on the Brent Bravo oil platform in the North Sea were lost after Shell senior management put production and profits before safely.

Senior officials at Royal Dutch Shell Plc had sight of Campbell’s email before it was sent. Campbell received cross-party support for his calls for an investigation.


Subject: This could be the most important whistleblower email you have ever received.

Some unfortunate Royal Dutch Shell workers have already lost their lives. More lives are at stake.

My name is Bill Campbell. I am a former Group Auditor of Shell International. I am writing to you on a matter of conscience in an effort to avert the inevitability of another major accident in the North Sea. The consequences could potentially impact on families in many constituencies, including your own.

As Royal Dutch Shell and the Health & Safety Executive would acknowledge, I am an expert on safety matters relating to offshore oil and gas platforms. In 1999, I was appointed by Shell to lead a safety audit on the Brent Bravo platform. The audit revealed a platform management culture that basically gave a higher priority to production than the safety of Shell employees. To our astonishment we discovered that a “Touch F*** All” policy was in place. Worse still, safety records were routinely falsified and repairs bodged.

I personally brought the shocking situation to the attention of senior management including Malcolm Brinded, the then Managing Director of Shell Exploration & Production. I revealed that ESDV leak-off tests were purposely falsified, not once but many times and that Brent Bravo platform management had admitted responsibility for the dangerous practices being followed. In response to my team ringing alarm bells, management pledged to rectify the serious problems, which had been uncovered. When I later complained that the pledges were not being kept, I was removed from my oversight function.

Four years later, a massive gas leak occurred on the platform. Two workers lost their lives. I have no doubt at all that the inaction of the relevant Asset Manager, the General Manager, the Oil Director and Malcolm Brinded, contributed in some part to the unlawful killing of two persons on Brent Bravo in September 2003.

Shell subsequently pleaded guilty to breaches of the HSE regulations and a record-breaking £900,000 fine was imposed. I thought this would bring about a real change in policy to put the emphasis on safety.

Unfortunately I was wrong. Although I supplied the evidence related to 1999, and the fact that there had been a collapse in controls of integrity from 1999 to 2003 on all 16 of Shell’s North Sea offshore installations covered in a post fatality integrity review to the HSE for review by the Procurator Fiscal, none of this evidence was presented before the Sheriff at the subsequent Inquiry. The situation is explained in a letter to the Procurator Fiscal and the Sheriff (on 24th February 2007).

Shell management has engaged in spin to try to pretend that it is getting to grips with its safety problem. However, its atrocious safety record – the worst in the North Sea in terms of accidental deaths and absolute number of enforcement actions – tells a different story. This fact has resulted in a number of newspaper articles.

I have had meetings with senior Shell people including its CEO Mr. Jeroen van der Veer. I regret to say that I have found him to be economical with the truth. He prefers to support cover-up and deceit rather than confronting the underlying problems. Brinded is now Executive Director of Shell Exploration & Production. He believes in burying evidence.

My family and friends would probably prefer me to give up on this matter and enjoy my retirement after so many years working for Shell.

However, by writing to every MP in the UK, no one can ever say that I did not do my best to avert an inevitable further major accident event in the North Sea. When it happens (I pray that I am wrong) I will make this warning communication available to the media together with the vast amount of evidence in my possession.

At least my conscience is clear. I have done everything possible to ring the alarm bells about Shell management and its unscrupulous attitude to the safety of its employees.

Yours sincerely

Bill Campbell (EMAIL ENDS)

Internal correspondence we obtained from Shell under the Data Protection Act revealed that Shell had set up a countermeasures team to combat our joint campaign with Bill Campbell for Shell offshore employee safety. It was clear from the internal emails that Shell had been panic stricken by the prospect of a Campbell/Donovan campaign. Shell EP General Counsel Keith Ruddock wrote to Campbell’s solicitors desperately doing his best to kill the prospective alliance. A stated aim in the internal emails was to “detach” Campbell from the Donovans. The revelations generated newspaper headlines: “Shell on back foot as ‘gripe’ site’ alleges safety concerns” (Daily Mail) and “Pressure on Shell over safety of platforms” (Daily Telegraph).

Jeroen van der Veer was later quoted in a Guardian article in August 2007 as being “hurt” by our criticism over Shell’s safety record. Yet on 1 Feb 08, Channel 4 News led its broadcast with a 7-minute package: “Shell North Sea Safety Concerns”. On 23 Feb 08, Shell pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court to safety offences’ arising from a potential “near disaster” at Stanlow Refinery arising from a lethal gas leak. In March 08, an UpstreamOnline article revealed that Shell had received more HSE legal notices than any other operator working in the UK North Sea. It also reported that two Brent field lifeboats, one on Brent Bravo, had to be removed from service because they were in a dangerous condition. In early October 09, an HSE Prohibition Notice was served on Shell after a potentially deadly gas leak on Shell Brent Charlie platform.

We are therefore forced to conclude that despite a Shell “safety czar” (Kieron McFadyen) being appointed, it was just another example of empty Shell PR propaganda. In reality, nothing has changed. A reckless attitude to safety issues remains the key feature of the unscrupulous reign of Shell EP / Upstream International Executive director, Malcolm “TFA” Brinded. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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