North Sea oil and gas workers were still being sacked for raising safety concerns with their bosses, a union official claimed yesterday.
Graham Tran, regional officer for the Amicus union, was speaking at a press conference where the oil and gas industry's Step Change in Safety leadership team was outlining steps being taken to accelerate the pace of improvement in offshore safety.
Gary Luquette, chairman of the team, said the vision was for the UK to be the safest place to work in the worldwide oil and gas industry by 2010.
He said tremendous progress had been made in the past seven or eight years and the gap with the safest region in the world - Asia/Australia - was closing.
He added that the pace of change in UK waters would be forced still further by focusing on three strategic areas:
Recognition and understanding of potential hazards in the offshore work environment and how to deal with them to reduce the risk of accidents.
Creating "personal ownership" for safety at all levels in organisations by demonstrating commitment, competence and leadership.
Ensuring asset integrity by making sure platforms and pipelines were properly maintained, reliable and efficient.
Mr Tran questioned if this new approach of personal ownership of safety was just another initiative to blame the workforce. He said obstacles and barriers had to be removed so workers were not frowned upon for raising safety concerns.
"Even this week, I am dealing with cases where people have been sacked for raising safety issues within a company. This sort of thing has been going on for decades."
Mr Tran said that, if staff and the employers worked together, then improvements were possible. The Amicus official wants operators to stop giving contracts to firms which work against the principles of Step Change.
Mr Luquette, who is also president and managing director of Chevron Upstream Europe, conceded there were "bad actors" in the industry, adding: "We have hundreds of companies in the oil and gas sector; it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole bunch."
He said efforts would be made to align all of the leaders behind the Step Change aims.
Taf Powell, head of the Health and Safety Executive's offshore division, was asked by one reporter if the Step Change vision for 2010 was achievable.
"That's a hard one to call," he said, adding that there was no precedent for an industry sector to have such a vision or putting so much effort into it.
Mr Powell said: "If all three objectives are achieved, then significant and sustainable improvements are attainable, but there are big challenges to overcome."
Mike Bowyer, a UK managing director of oil service firm Halliburton, said: "Personal responsibility for safety is about getting everyone, regardless of position and status, to work safely, to look after themselves, their colleagues and others, and always intervene when unsafe behaviour or conditions are observed, without fear of recrimination. This is a conscious break with the way behavioural safety has often been presented in the past."
Source: The Press & Journal