Injuries, Spills in UK Offshore Oil Fall - HSE

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), July 19, 2011

There were less potentially hazardous oil and gas leaks from offshore installations operating in the U.K. North Sea than in the corresponding period a year earlier, although the industry has yet to improve on the record low number of incidents recorded two years ago, data from the Health and Safety Executive showed Tuesday.

There were 73 major or significant hydrocarbon releases offshore in 2010-2011, down from 85 the previous year, the HSE said in its annual statistical report. Few of these releases could be considered as oil spills, it said. However, this was still significantly more than the record low of 61 incidents in 2008-2009. There were only seven incidents where a quantity of hydrocarbon liquid was released to the sea, with the amounts ranging from minimal to 500 kilograms, it said.

No workers were killed and there were 42 major injuries reported in the period, down 16% from 50 reports the prior year, the HSE said. The combined fatal and major injury rate fell to 151.84 per 100,000 workers in 2010-2011 compared with 187.9 in 2009-2010, the third lowest rate over the last 10 years, it said.

There were 432 dangerous occurrences reported in 2010-2011, down 2.5% from 443 in the preceding year, the HSE said.

The backlog of maintenance work on safety critical systems continue to decline, according to data gathered by the industry, the HSE said.

"This year's statistics are a step in the right direction," said Steve Walker, HSE's head of offshore safety. "But there is still much work to be done. Hydrocarbon releases are a key indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major accident risks, and the industry still hasn't matched or exceeded the record lows of two years ago," he added.

Walker said companies need to pick up the pace of improvement and that he expects all operators to be drawing up and implementing plans to meet that end.

Robert Paterson, industry body Oil & Gas U.K.'s health and safety director, said the statistics reflect the "significant effort made in the last 12 months to get back on track after last year's disappointing performance."

Paterson said the maintenance of safety critical systems remains of paramount importance for all members of Oil & Gas U.K. but acknowledged "there were still areas for us to improve upon."

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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