The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001: Supply and Possession of Controlled Drugs Offshore

  • Operations notice: 64
  • Issue date: Jan 2004


1. This notice clarifies the duties and roles of the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) and the offshore medic in respect of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDR).


2. Some controlled drugs, as defined by MDR and earlier legislation, are included for offshore use in UK Offshore Operators Association's (UKOOA) publication First-aid and medical equipment on offshore installations. Specific examples are: diamorphine, morphine sulphate, pethidine and Diazepam.

3. MDR uses the power set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, section 7, to provide exemptions from the Act, making it lawful for certain people to produce, supply and possess certain controlled drugs. MDR also contains requirements relating to record keeping and documentation for controlled drugs. Interpretation of these provisions of MDR offshore has been the source of some confusion, particularly in respect of matters such as whether or not an offshore medic can keep the key to the drugs cabinet.

Supply of controlled drugs

4. Only an OIM is allowed to supply controlled drugs. An offshore medic who is not a fully qualified doctor is not entitled to supply controlled drugs. MDR regulations 8(5) and 9(5) allow the OIM to supply the controlled drugs specified in the accompanying Schedules to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, or regulations made thereunder. In the context of supply of controlled drugs offshore the OIM supplies controlled drugs to comply with the Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works (First-Aid) Regulations 1989 (OFAR), regulation 5.

Administration of controlled drugs

5. Offshore medics can, in carrying out their duties, administer the controlled drugs listed in the Schedules but only under the direction of a doctor or dentist. MDR regulation 7(3) states that: 'Any person other than a doctor or dentist may administer to a patient, in accordance with the directions of a doctor or dentist, any drug specified in Schedule 2, 3 or 4'. The controlled drugs listed in these Schedules include those noted at paragraph 2 above.

Possession of controlled drugs

6. Regulation 10(5) of MDR allows any person to possess the controlled drugs specified in Schedules 2, 3 and Part I of Schedule 4 to comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 or regulations made thereunder. Holding a key to the medicine store amounts to 'possession' of any controlled drugs it may contain. The effect of regulation 10(5) is therefore to enable any person offshore to hold a key to the medicine store if they are doing so to comply with regulation 5 of OFAR.

Destruction of controlled drugs

7. Witnessed destruction of controlled drugs is sometimes thought to be acceptable offshore, but this is not the case. MDR regulation 27(4) requires that where an OIM is in the possession of Schedule 2 controlled drugs that are no longer required '… he shall not destroy the drug or cause it to be destroyed but shall dispose of it to a constable, or to a person who may lawfully supply that drug to him'. Where an OIM is in possession of Schedule 2 controlled drugs for destruction they should be suitably packaged and hand-carried from the installation to a police station (or to someone who can legally supply them, eg a doctor) by a responsible person. A system needs to be in place to demonstrate the chain of custody and provide evidence that the drugs were destroyed, eg a covering memo from the OIM accompanying the drugs, which is signed by the police and returned offshore for record keeping purposes.


  • First-aid and medical equipment on offshore installations Issue 1 December 2000 EHS12 UK Offshore Operators Association 2000
  • The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 SI 2001/3998 The Stationery Office 2001 ISBN 0 11 039021 0
  • The Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works (First-Aid) Regulation 1989 SI 1989/1671 The Stationery Office 1989 ISBN 0 11 097671 1

Further information

Any queries relating to this notice should be addressed to:

Health and Safety Executive
Hazardous Installations Directorate
Offshore Division
Lord Cullen House
Fraser Place
Aberdeen AB25 3UB

Tel: 01224 252500
Fax: 01224 252629

This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive. Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice

Updated 2021-02-16