Oil workers mute on safety issues for fear of being fired

A conference to mark the 25th anniversary of Piper Alpha is set to be told that safety on North Sea oil platforms is being jeopardised as workers are too scared to voice their concerns.

RMT offshore organiser, Jake Molloy, will sound the warning to industry officials at the gathering in Scotland next week.

His comments contrast sharply with Oil & Gas UK’s annual safety report which highlights a 48% reduction in the number of reportable oil and gas releases over the past three years.

But the RMT official questioned the relevance of the figures in light of his concerns that offshore employees avoid reporting safety breaches as they fear the sack.

Overall safety in the North Sea has improved since Piper Alpha but I have got two safety representatives in my office now saying they cannot do what they are meant to,” Mr Malloy said, in comments provided by The Guardian.

He continued: “You can have all the statistics and the technology in place but it does not make a blind bit of difference if people are under pressure, being bullied, or just disengaged.”

Mr Malloy went on to criticise the government’s decision to dismantle the offshore safety division inside the Health and Safety Executive.

“HSE says this restructuring will make no difference but I remain to be convinced, as does the rest of the trade union movement in Scotland. We are also worried that the role of the HSE is being diluted.”

HSE ‘committed’ to safety

Kevin Myers, deputy chief executive of the HSE, moved to placate concerns over the creation of new the Energy Division in an open letter earlier this year.

“I wish to reassure the Unions, industry and concerned MSPs that HSE’s reorganisation of its major hazard directorate through the creation of an Energy Division will not weaken offshore regulation”, he wrote.

Mr Myers underscored that the HSE remained committed to strengthening offshore safety.

167 workers were tragically killed in the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster after an explosion ripped through the Occidental Petroleum-owned platform.

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