New offshore statistics suggest the sector is getting safer, with both the combined fatal and major injury rate and major hydrocarbon releases at their lowest since the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began regulating the industry.
No workers were killed while working offshore during 2008/09 -- the second consecutive year with no fatalities -- and there was a fall in major injuries with 30 reported, a fall of 14 compared with 2007/08 figures.
The combined fatal and major injury rate reduced to 106 per 100,000 workers in 2008/09 compared with 156 in 2007/08 and 146 in 2006/07.
The number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases, regarded as potential precursors to an incident, also showed marked improvement with 61 in 2008/09 compared with 74 in 2007/08.
In 2008/09 there was a small fall in the minor three-day injury rate with 496 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, bucking the broadly flat trend over the previous seven years.
Judith Hackitt said, "The improvements in major and fatal accident rates are encouraging but industry must not take its eye of the ball. Investment in safety must continue despite the current economic climate putting a squeeze on resources.
"Although we were pleased to see no fatalities occurring in offshore operations for a second consecutive year, this good news was of course overshadowed by the tragic events of April 1 when the Super Puma helicopter crashed with the loss of 16 passengers. The same day, in a separate incident, a worker received fatal injuries aboard a dive support vessel in transit.
"Even though HSE's remit does not extend to air and marine transport activities, these incidents show that hazards are ever present offshore. The loss of 17 offshore workers this year is a tragedy and stark reminder to us all.
"The KP3 review, published just last month, shows that progress is being made in improving safety in the industry and HSE inspectors will continue to adopt a tough approach to poor performers to help preserve and improve the industry’s safety performance as a whole.”
Added Ian Whewell Head of HSE's Offshore Division, "Although I welcome the reduction in major and significant hydrocarbon releases the challenge is to secure sustained improvement. Carrying forward last year's success will require continued industry focus on integrity management, safe systems of work, supervision, risk assessment and competence. Worryingly, early indicators for 2009/10 suggest last year's improved performance is currently not being delivered.
"Renewed effort is also essential to reduce the number of minor injuries which have only been showing a slow rate of decline. A focus on training, together with identification and management of hazards and risks are key factors for preventing incidents. I believe the workforce has a key role to play and I encourage the industry to continue working on improved workforce involvement and to give their full support to safety representatives.
"Ultimately, good safety is good business."
Responsibility for offshore safety transferred to HSE from the former Department for Energy in 1991 on the basis of recommendations made in the report by Lord Cullen following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988.
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