BOOTLE, UK – The number of potentially serious offshore oil and gas leaks on the UK continental shelf has fallen, according to Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Latest analysis counts 73 major or significant hydrocarbon releases associated with UK offshore installations in 2010/11, down from 85 the previous year, but still higher than the 61 recorded in 2008/09 – the lowest since HSE started regulating the industry’s activities.
Overall, HSE adds, there is a continuing downward trend in the total of all reported hydrocarbon releases offshore.
For the fourth year running, there were no fatalities resulting from offshore activities regulated by HSE. Serious injuries fell from 50 the previous year to 42, a total in line with the average of the previous five years.
HSE counted 432 dangerous occurrences in 2010/11, 11 fewer than the previous year. More than a third were hydrocarbon releases, and just over a quarter were related to equipment failures.
Steve Walker, HSE’s head of offshore safety, said: “This year’s statistics are a step in the right direction…But there is still much work to be done. Hydrocarbon releases are a key indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major accident risks, and the industry still hasn’t matched or exceeded the record lows of two years ago…
“The Gulf of Mexico disaster should continue to be a stark reminder of what can go wrong offshore. HSE will remain tough on companies that fail to protect their workforce by not investing in the fabric and workings of their installations or neglecting to implement effective management systems or workforce training.”
Robert Paterson, health and safety director of industry association Oil & Gas, said: “Last year, the UK offshore industry’s safety initiative, Step Change in Safety, agreed with all its member companies to redouble efforts to reduce the number of reportable leaks by 50% over three years. These statistics show that progress towards the target has begun.
“The reduction in the number of major injuries and the fact that we’ve seen a four-year period without a fatality on an offshore installation are also very encouraging. Indeed, in terms of lost time injury rates, the offshore industry continues to outperform general manufacturing and even the public sectors.
“While we acknowledge we’ve made progress compared with last year, there are still areas for us to improve upon. Our efforts to achieve even safer work sites through learning and sharing information on incidents and their underlying causes, and through greater workforce engagement continue as essential elements in the UK oil and gas industry journey towards making the UK the safest offshore sector in the world in which to work.”