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Aberdeen Press and Journal article: "Men died after fears flagged up"

Ian Whewell from Head of HSE's Offshore Division responds - 19 July 2006

20 July 2006

Sir

I was disappointed and concerned to read your article in Wednesday's Press and Journal which carried allegations, made by Amicus, that HSE had not taken appropriate action following investigation of a complaint made by the Trade Union prior to the tragic deaths of Sean McCue and Keith Moncrieff on Brent Bravo. This is simply not the case. I also reject the direct linkage of this inaccurate allegation to the Brent Bravo incident.

HSE received a complaint made by Amicus and OILC on Shell's proposed Business Improvement Project, in particular the issue of downmanning on Shell platforms. HSE listened very carefully to their concerns and conducted a full and thorough investigation, visiting three platforms, and interviewing 150 Shell personnel. Brent Bravo was not visited as no specific request was made for it to be included.

As a result of the investigation Shell, who have primary responsibility for safety, increased the number of technicians offshore across all their platforms.

A separate complaint was made regarding maintenance backlogs - specifically concerning Brent Delta. This investigation identified issues which Shell needed to address across their business. As the tragic events at Brent Bravo demonstrate such issues were not addressed as quickly or effectively as they should have been.

HSE's own findings from the 2003 Brent Bravo tragedy have been born out in the determination from the Sheriff and confirm the importance of our continued emphasis on plant integrity issues in the offshore industry. The industry can and must do better in this area.

As you say in your editorial, offshore safety probably faces more challenges than almost any other industry, given the hostile working environment and the dangerous nature of the work. Meeting these challenges, will require concerted action by the industry, workforce and the Regulator. We need to ensure our collective energies are channelled towards achieving the industry's own target of making the UK continental shelf the safest offshore sector in the world by 2010.

Ian Whewell
Head of HSE's Offshore Division
Aberdeen

Updated 2010-05-10