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The Scotsman: Shell ‘endangered’ oilrig workers’ lives

Wed 14 Jun 2006

SHELL endangered the lives of hundreds of staff by operating North Sea oil platforms that were known to have “dangerously high levels of risk”, according to a former senior manager with the British-Dutch company.

A major review of seven offshore platforms revealed the falsification of safety compliance documents, a backlog of temporary repairs and repeated violations of operating procedures.

Official handover notes from one shift worker contained the order “TFA”, which meant “touch f*** all”. This meant that important safety equipment, repairs of which would result in the shut-down of production, was left to rust.

The review also claimed that rig managers on the Shell platform Brent Bravo reported 96 per cent compliance with safety critical maintenance, but the actual levels of compliance were discovered to be just 14 per cent.

Bill Campbell, one of Shell’s top maintenance engineers compiled the report in 1999 and believes the company’s failure to implement his findings led to the deaths of two technicians on the Brent Bravo platform in 2003. Keith Moncrieff, 45, and Sean McCue, 22, died when a cloud of hydrocarbon gas leaked from a broken valve while they were inspecting the platform’s utility leg.

During Mr Campbell’s investigation in 1999, he discovered problems with an emergency shutdown valve on the Brent Bravo platform. Such valves prevent oil and gas feeding any leak or fire. Reports on the valve had been falsified to show that there was no fault.

Mr Campbell, who retired from Shell in 2002, but who worked for the company as a consultant until last month, made his accusations in a BBC Scotland documentary, The Human Price of Oil, to be broadcast tonight.

He said: “If you operate offshore installations at dangerously high levels of risk, the implication of that is that a major accident will happen. It is a surprise to me that it took as long as 2003 before that happened.”

Following the Brent Bravo accident, Shell executives ordered another safety review of all its North Sea platforms. Mr Campbell, who has seen this latest report, says it paints a more worrying picture of safety levels at Shell installations. He said: “The situation on Brent Bravo had, if anything, worsened, and that situation was now common on 15 offshore installations operated by Shell. I mean the falsification of test results, the operating equipment in a dangerous condition, the neglect of maintenance and that sort of thing.”

Shell said: “There had been a vigorous and significant management response to the safety review, including a detailed improvement plan and progress reviewed by senior management.”

The company also said that since the double fatality, it has introduced new maintenance systems that are rigorous and transparent, adding that “the allegation regarding operating with high risk levels is untrue, and we absolutely refute this”.

• The Human Price of Oil is being shown on BBC1 tonight at 7pm

Related topic

North Sea Oil & Gas

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