The dangers of working in the offshore oil and gas industry are among the most serious imaginable. They include explosions, fire, suffocation from gas, and failure of the drilling structures.
In the UK, there are more than 25,000 people working on 300 or so offshore installations. These dangers put them all at risk.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
HSE keeps a close eye on the Health and Safety implications of the offshore oil and gas industry. Its job is to make sure employers and workers understand and manage their Occupational Health and safety risks.
The oil and gas industry is a specialised area of work. HSE therefore has an expert team known as its Offshore Division (OSD) to handle health and safety matters.
The aims of OSD are to:
- Prevent major accidents
- Improve rates of injury and ill health
- Ensure a strong legal health and safety framework
- Have as many of the workforce involved as possible
The OSD also strives towards making the UK offshore sector the safest in the world.
Key Programme 3
In 2007, HSE completed a three-year inspection of offshore installations. This inspection, called Key Programme 3 (KP3), uncovered some major problems.
KP3 summarised its findings into five main parts. These were:
- The competence of the safety management systems
- The physical condition of the offshore plant
- The risk control measures
- Human resources and skills
- Underlying matters such as the roles of engineering and leadership, and the ability to learn and to discuss issues
HSE had grave concerns in all five areas.
The offshore oil and gas industry took the KP3 report seriously. It acknowledged HSEs concerns about health and safety, and began to do something about them.
A year later, the government asked HSE to check on progress. This led to the 2009 KP3 review.
The review focused on two areas of work. The first was the integrity of the assets and the functioning of safety-critical elements. Much of this work related to the maintenance of offshore installations. In particular, HSE wanted to be sure that management systems and processes worked effectively.
The second area of work related to the involvement of the workforce in health and safety issues. HSE wanted to know about any improvements in organisation, training and competence. It was also keen to find out if the general workforce felt the industry was promoting a better culture of safety.
KP3 Review Findings
The HSE review said that since 2007 the industry had worked hard to improve its offshore assets and to meet the required standards. But the work was incomplete, and the industry had to continue its programme of improvement.
As for workforce involvement, HSE found evidence of good progress. But the industry had some way to go before workforce consultation over health and safety had reached a satisfactory level.
Employers were clearly paying more attention. The role of HSE in monitoring health and safety is still essential, though, in one of the most hazardous working environments in the world.
Last Updated on 25 May 2021