HSE concerned at continuing hydrocarbon releases offshore

Thursday, 4th Sep '08 at 10:16

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today (Wednesday, 13th August, 2008) expressed concern at the continuing number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases in the offshore industry, often regarded as precursors to a major accident.

Figures released by the HSE revealed that there had been no improvement in the number of this kind of incident during 2007/08. During the year, 517 dangerous incidents were reported, 40 per cent of which were hydrocarbon releases. HSE's report on offshore statistics is available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/statistics/stat0708.htm

Chair of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt issued a reminder to the offshore industry, "The statistics we have released today underline that we are far from being in a position where we can feel comfortable. Although there are instances where improvements have been sustained, the control of potential major incident risks seems to have taken a back seat."

"We continue to be concerned at the failure to reduce the number of hydrocarbon releases, together with an increase in the number of major injuries. This suggests that basic safety systems are not being followed."

Ms Hackitt advised that HSE has been tasked to complete a major review of the industry and said: "Twenty years on from Piper Alpha, we must learn key lessons to ensure that failures of basic systems do not lead to major incidents. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell, has asked us to conduct a thorough review of the industry following the KP3 report on asset integrity published last year. This industry review will be a crucial part of our ongoing work in this high priority programme."

"With the demand for oil and gas so high and with assets being worked beyond their original intended life span, it is more important than ever that the offshore industry continues to invest in the sector to protect its workers and puts safety first."

The Offshore Safety Statistics also indicated that the in 2007/08, the lowest rate ever had been recorded for the number of minor three day injuries at 148, and although it had remained broadly the same for the last six years, this was a significant achievement from the peak of nearly 300 in 1997/98.

Ian Whewell, Head of HSE’s Offshore Division added, "Despite the reduction in minor injuries, the overall trend for these injuries does not yet show evidence of a significant decline and the potential for minor injuries to have been major injuries remains ever present. The industry cannot afford to be complacent and faces a difficult task if it intends to achieve its current aim of being the safest offshore sector in the world by 2010 and will need to make significant improvements in hazardous incident performance to achieve this."

The statistics also revealed an increase in the number of major injuries in the offshore sector in 2007/08p, rising from 39 the previous year, to 44. There were no fatalities in the industry for the first time in three years, although there were 12 fatalities in marine operations associated with the offshore activities including the Bourbon Dolphin incident where eight lives were lost. As marine sector incidents these fatalities do not appear in the offshore industry statistics; but they are investigated and regulated as appropriate within the scope of HSEs remit, which includes cooperation with other regulatory authorities.

Headline statistics (Based on provisional figures for 2007/2008)

  • The main causes of major injuries were related to slips/trips/fall (15), being trapped, struck by or striking against equipment (13), or injuries associated with lifts/pulls/pushes/swinging of loads (12) accounting for 91% of the total;
  • 21 major injuries were to the upper limb - Upper limb includes finger/thumbs, hand, wrist and rest of upper limb.
  • 28 major injuries were due to fracture - Fractures to fingers, thumbs or toes are normally classed as over-3-day injuries and not as major injuries.
  • The number of reported over-3-day injuries has reduced this year by 16 to 148 (9.8% fall)
  • 517 dangerous occurrences were reported, which is 32 more than during 2006/07, representing an increase of 6.6%;
  • Main types of dangerous occurrences reported were Hydrocarbon releases (40%), fail equipment offshore (23%) fail well (7%) and lift related (7%).
  • The number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases (74p) showed no improvement over 2006/07 (74) which itself was an increase over 2005/06 (73)
  1. The Offshore Safety Statistics Bulletin sets out the headline health and safety statistics for the offshore oil and gas industries and provides an important indicator of health and safety performance in the sector.
  2. The Bulletin is designed to show provisional headline figures before a more detailed statistical analysis is published later in the year. It records fatalities, reportable injuries, occurrences of ill health and dangerous occurrences reported to HSE between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2008 under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).
  3. Vantage is a registration and tracking system for offshore workers in the UK. Since its introduction in November 2003 it has been adopted increasingly by the offshore oil and gas industry. Vantage provides the most reliable basis for estimating the offshore population
  4. The KP3 report was published in November 2007 and is the result of a three year investigation and the inspection of nearly 100 offshore installations. It is the largest coordinated inspection programme carried out by Offshore Division to date.
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