Last week, industry body Oil and Gas UK reported a growing backlog of safety-critical maintenance on offshore installations. Its annual health and safety report said the trend had been growing since companies began reporting in January 2009. This is significant given the new requirements of the Offshore Safety Directive (“OSD”) and the implementing legislation in the UK, which we recently reported on, due to come into force on 19 July 2015. The Offshore Installations (Offshore Safety Directive) (Safety Case etc.) Regulations 2015 now bring about a number of important changes, including for the first time a requirement to integrate the management of both safety and environmental risks,  and the introduction of independent verification for environmentally critical elements (as has for some time been the case for safety critical elements).                                                                               

Oil and Gas UK however stressed that this did not mean platforms were less safe, with decisions to defer maintenance only being taken after a robust risk assessment. The report also indicated that the number of UK offshore oil and gas leaks had fallen to its lowest level on record. Provisional figures showed a total of 77 petroleum hydrocarbon releases between April 2014 and May this year. This was down on the 89 recorded in 2012/13 and 102 in 2013/14. In addition to the petroleum releases, there were 16 leaks of "non-process" substances such as diesel, methanol and hydraulic fluid. Oil and Gas UK's Health and Safety 2015 figures were based on incidents reported by companies to the Health and Safety Executive and shared with the trade body.

Despite these encouraging statistics, the backlog of safety-critical maintenance will require to be addressed by the industry as part of its continued focus on safety, particularly, in the light of the OSD which requires that all suitable measures are taken to prevent major accidents in offshore oil and gas operations. 

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