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PressandJournal.co.uk: Shell Brent Bravo: UNIONS CALL FOR WATCHDOG TO FACE PROBE:

KEITH FINDLAY

27 July 2006
 
A Union leader yesterday called for a thorough inquiry into the role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on North Sea oil and gas platforms.

Graham Tran, regional officer for Amicus, claimed the HSE had neither the resources nor the independence it needed to improve and police safety offshore.

He was speaking as representatives from the TGWU, RMT and OILC unions met a top HSE official to raise their general concerns about safety following the conclusion last week of a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two men on Shell’s Brent Bravo platform almost three years ago.

Union officials had flagged up fears about offshore safety just weeks before the tragic incident on September 11, 2003.

The HSE carried out a full investigation, but – despite identifying some areas for improvement – concluded there were no “imminent risks to the health and safety ” of workers.

Just a few weeks later, Brent Bravo workers Keith Moncrieff, 45, of Invergowrie, near Dundee, and Sean McCue, 22, of Kennoway, Fife, were killed in a tragic accident while inspecting a repair on a leaking pipe.

In his fatal accident inquiry verdict, Sheriff Colin Harris said the deaths could have been avoided and highlighted defects in the system of working.

The HSE has since been criticised for not taking steps that could have prevented the accident, but the organisation has claimed it received no complaints specific to Brent Bravo.

Mr Tran, who met HSE board member Kevin Myers in London on Tuesday, said a lot of questions were still unanswered.

“This matter is not finished and we are calling for some action,” he added. “The status quo is definitely not an option.”

Amicus was fully prepared to take the matter to the STUC, the TUC, the Health and Safety Commission and, ultimately, the Government, he revealed.

He said he had made it “crystal clear” to Mr Myers, who heads the HSE’s hazardous installations directorate, that Amicus was unhappy at the way concerns raised by itself and the OILC about offshore safety in March 2003 were handled.

“We gave them (the HSE) information in relation to a backlog of maintenance work on Shell’s installations and it failed to act properly on that,” he added. Mr Tran claimed the HSE did not have enough staff to police North Sea safety standards properly.

The organisation was also failing to assert its independence effectively, he said.

He added: “A stronger, more courageous approach is needed from the HSE, with proper resources in the front line.”

Amicus will decide the best way forward after looking at offshore safety issues during a union meeting in Manchester on August 3, said Mr Tran.

OILC general secretary Jake Molloy used yesterday’s meeting to highlight three main areas of concern he had about offshore health and safety – workforce involvement, the independence of inspections and enforcement.

What happened during the run-up to the Brent Bravo incident and thereafter proved there were serious flaws in the system, he said.

A spokesman for the HSE said the unions were seen as “key stakeholders” in offshore safety, with a vital role to play in helping the UK industry to meet its target of being the safest in the world by 2010.

“The meetings have been constructive and will help the HSE in further developing its intervention strategy offshore,” he added.

Shell has fully accepted Sheriff Harris’s findings and also accepted that much still needs to be done to achieve the safety performance it wants and to meet its goal of zero incidents.

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