The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said provisional figures showed there were 85 significant hydrocarbon releases — seen as potential precursors to a major incident — between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2009, up from 61 the previous year.
There were also 50 major injuries reported in the financial year 2009/10, which ended three weeks before an explosion on a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico sparked the worst accidental oil spill in history, compared to the average of 42 serious injuries over the previous five years.
\”I am particularly disappointed, and concerned, that major and significant hydrocarbon releases are up by more than a third on last year,\” Steve Walker, head of the HSE\’s offshore division said.
\”This is a key indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major accident potential, and it really must up its game to identify and rectify the root causes of such events.\”
Although the number of recorded dangerous incidents fell by 34 to 443 — 42 percent of which were leaks, 23 percent offshore equipment failures — the HSE criticized offshore operators for a near doubling in the fatal and major injury rate.
\”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,\” Walker said.
For the third year running there were no fatalities on offshore rigs regulated by the HSE, but 17 workers died in other offshore related travel incidents — 16 of them when a helicopter returning from a platform crashed into the North Sea.
Earlier this month, Norway\’s oil safety watchdog said the petroleum industry should do more to prevent North Sea oil and gas rig leaks in the wake of the U.S. oil spill — which has wiped billions of dollars off operator BP\’s share price.