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Offshore industry urged to improve safety for workers

Health and Safety Executive reports a rise in major injuries last year.

Offshore: Increase in major injuries

The oil and gas industry was urged to improve safety for its offshore workers after latest figures showed an increase in major injuries last year.

A total of 50 were reported in 2009/10 - up 20 on 2008/09 and higher than the average of 42 over the previous five years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Offshore Safety Statistics Bulletin provisional data showed.

Over the last year there was also a marked rise in the number of major and significant hydrocarbon releases, which are regarded as potential precursors to a major incident.

The provisional total between April 1 2009 and March 31 2010 was 85, compared with 61 in 2008/09. No workers were killed during activities regulated by HSE for the third year running.

The figures do not include incidents which occur during marine and transport activities and are not regulated by HSE, such as the helicopter crash in the North Sea last April in which 16 people died.

Steve Walker, head of HSE's offshore division, said the figures were comparatively low considering the size of the workforce of almost 27,000, but that this was no excuse.

He said: "I am pleased to see no fatalities for a third consecutive year in the areas we regulate, but the fact that 17 workers tragically died in other offshore-related travel incidents in the year is a stark reminder that hazards are ever present offshore.

"This year's overall health and safety picture is simply not good enough. The industry has shown it can do better and it must do in future.

"I am particularly disappointed, and concerned, that major and significant hydrocarbon releases are up by more than a third on last year.

"We will continue to take a tough line on companies who put their workers at risk. The challenge to improve safety will be ever greater as more offshore installations exceed their original design life."

The combined fatal and major injury rate almost doubled to 192 per 100,000 workers in 2009/10 compared with 106 in 2008/09 and 156 in 2007/08.

The main causes of major injuries were related to slips/trips/fall (26), being trapped or struck by moving objects (11), or injuries associated with lifts/pulls/pushes/swinging of loads (5), accounting for 83% of the total.

Last year there was a reduction in the number of minor injuries, with 414 workers per 100,000 reporting an injury, compared with 496 in the previous year.

The HSE said that 443 dangerous occurrences were reported, 34 fewer than in 2008/09, with the main types being hydrocarbon releases (42%) and failure of equipment offshore (23%). There were an estimated 26,598 offshore workers in 2009/10.

The Offshore Safety Statistics Bulletin is designed to show provisional figures before a more detailed statistical analysis is published in October.
 

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