Recent proposals have come to light indicating the HSE’s plans to integrate its Offshore Safety Division (OSD) within a new, broader “Energy Division”. The announcement appears to have come as a surprise to both industry and trade unions, particularly given the upcoming 25th Anniversary of the Piper Alpha tragedy.

Robert Paterson, Oil & Gas UK’s health and safety director, has been reported stating that “there has been both surprise and concern expressed widely across the industry about the organisational changes planned for the OSD”. The industry body is also said to be considering what effect the practicalities of this change will have on the offshore oil and gas industry.

RMT – the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers – has similarly publicised its concerns over the restructuring exercise. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:“We fail to see how these changes will improve the efficiency of the regulator in a sector where new technologies are being developed and where there is significant investment forecast for the next decade and more.” Further stating, “In a goal setting industry where the objective is 'continuous improvement' there has to be a robust regulatory regime and a regulator able to apply strong influence in achieving that objective. Diluting that effort by stretching an already under resourced department cannot hope to deliver the aims of Lord Cullen all those years ago.

The public enquiry into Piper Alpha, chaired by Lord Cullen, laid down 106 recommendations. A key part of his proposals was for a single regulatory body to govern health and safety offshore: leading to the establishment of the OSD within the HSE. Since then, the OSD has been specifically devoted to regulating health and safety risks in the offshore oil and gas industry within the UK Continental Shelf.