Oil rig safety needs more than lipservice

Action not clichés is essential to avoid another offshore oil disaster says Neal Stone director of policy and research of the British Safety Council. His warning comes ahead of next […]

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By Sumit Bose

Action not clichés is essential to avoid another offshore oil disaster says Neal Stone director of policy and research of the British Safety Council. His warning comes ahead of next week’s full report by the US government into what went wrong at Deepwater Horizon last April.

The US National Commission released a snippet of the report earlier this week where it said the disaster was the “product of several individual missteps and oversights by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, which government regulators lacked the authority, the necessary resources, and the technical expertise to prevent”, the full report is published on Tuesday.

Mr Stone said learning lessons isn’t enough: “The report identifies ‘systemic failures’ and claims the disaster could and should have been avoided. If the report’s conclusions are correct, the implications for deepwater oil and gas exploration, the management of health, safety and environmental risks and regulation are global and immense.

“The ‘lessons will be learnt’ mantra which often follows terrible events is not sufficient this time. We must re-consider the fundamental principles that govern health and safety in hazardous workplaces and reassess the leadership skills required to effectively manage a workforce, especially ones employed in high-risk industries.”

Much of the report hints that time and money saving measures may have lead to oversights in health and safety and Mr Stone says the UK must take note too.

He added: “To read that this ‘could happen again’ should fill us all with both utter dread and an immediate and vigorous determination to ensure that worker safety is placed as the top priority and constantly reviewed. Yesterday’s report from the Commons’ Energy & Climate Change Committee of its inquiry into deepwater oil and gas drilling in the North Sea is vital and its warnings over our ability to deal with a catastrophic event should it happen must not be underestimated.”