Oil & Gas UK have published their report on Health and Safety (“the Report”) which aims to give an overview of the offshore oil and gas industry’s performance in health and safety in 2017. It also provides a summary of the activities that Oil & Gas UK groups have undertaken to protect people who work in the industry.

Key findings

  • Health performance has seen a year-on-year improvement since 2014;
  • There were no work-related fatalities in 2017;
  • Offshore helicopter operations across the UK Continental Shelf (“UKCS”) were completed without accident in 2017;
  • 2017 saw continuing improvement in personal and process safety. The numbers of reportable injuries continued to fall along with another consecutive year of record-low numbers of reportable incidents, 67% lower than in 2001;
  • Concerted industry action to reduce hydrocarbon releases since 2000, together with the Health and Safety Executive’s (“HSE”) Key Programme initiatives, has resulted in continued decrease;
  • Despite the significant reduction in total hydrocarbon releases over the past decade, the number of major releases has plateaued at around two per year. In April 2018, the HSE wrote to all UKSC duty holders asking them to confirm what measures their organisation had put in place since 2015, or would be putting in place, to improve safety management performance and challenged the wider industry to assess whether it could do more to reduce the occurrence of major hydrocarbon releases. The importance of preventing hydrocarbon releases was also emphasised this summer, when industry came together at Safety 30, a two day event marking the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster.

2017 performance

To minimise harm to people, Oil & Gas UK have stated that the primary focus for this major-hazard industry must be on process safety, and the effective containment of hydrocarbons and associated hazards.

Major accidents occur rarely and leading indicators must be assessed in addition to lagging indicators such as hydrocarbon releases. Leading indicators such as maintenance backlogs for safety critical elements and overdue verification findings are also used to monitor how well safety critical elements are being managed. It is also important to manage the health and well-being of the offshore workforce effectively, given the remoteness of the worksite and the nature of the work they perform.

Every year, Oil & Gas UK conducts a benchmarking exercise so that installation operators can compare their own safety performance against the industry average. Other industry associations monitor and report the safety performance of marine and drilling contractors. Thirty-six installation operators were included in the benchmarking exercise for 2017 data, the average frequency rates for those companies is calculated to the industry standard of incidents per million man-hours on a 12-hour working day. Incident frequency rates, rather than absolute numbers, are used for comparison in this exercise. However, even with that standardisation, the wide variation in frequency rates between the best and worst performers is affected by the relative size of the company’s operations. A more detailed benchmarking report is issued to companies directly. Over the last decade, the frequency of dangerous occurrences and reportable injuries has fallen by over 50%. Three operators completed 2017 having recorded no dangerous occurrences and 11 experienced no reportable injuries, compared with nine in 2016.

The industry also has an asset integrity Key Performance Indicator (“KPI”) scheme which uses the data provided by Oil & Gas UK member companies on a voluntary basis at the end of every quarter. KP-1 measures hydrocarbon releases, while KP1-2 and -3 measure verification non-compliance and safety-critical maintenance backlog.

Offshore helicopter operations

The UK oil and gas industry continues to work with helicopter operators, helicopter and safety equipment manufacturers, and regulators to further reduce aviation risks. This is achieved by collectively and vigorously pursuing robust operating procedures and practices, by pursuing offshore helicopter safety initiatives and research projects, as well as ensuring swift implementation of actions and recommendations arising from accident investigations, inquiries and reviews.

Reportable accident data for UKCS offshore operations are collected by the Civil Aviation Authority under its mandatory occurrence reporting scheme. Since 1997, four fatal accidents have claimed the lives of 38 offshore workers and flight crew, and there have been 16 non-fatal accidents. Over the past 20 years industry-led initiatives have brought many safety improvements to UKCS helicopter operations.

2017 was an accident-free year in offshore helicopter operations. As a result, the UKCS’ five-year average all accident rate has decreased from 1.0 to 0.52 per 100,000 flying hours.

Significant activities

In 2017, Oil & Gas UK worked with stakeholders and members to ensure that accumulated experience, knowledge and expertise is shared broadly within the industry. One way in which this is achieved is by developing industry guidance to promote awareness of sector-specific good practice and regulatory compliance.

In 2017, documents were produced on topics such as fire and explosion risk management, emergency response and rescue vessel requirements and electrical operations. Oil & Gas UK also supported industry in resolving significant issues and co-ordinating activities, including the management of accommodation fire risk, lifeboat familiarisation requirements, safety case improvements, and finalising the inclusion of the Category A Compressed Air Emergency Breathing System into basic offshore safety induction and emergency training. Another key role for Oil & Gas UK is the identification of potential changes to the operating environment arising from legislative and constitutional changes.

In summary, health and safety performance in 2017 showed an improvement in many of the key indicators. However, complacency is a significant risk and companies must aim to continuously improve.