Oil and gas industry offshore safety warning issued

Piper Alpha Serious hydrocarbon releases, which can lead to major incidents, were up

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The offshore oil and gas industry has been warned to improve safety, after a year which saw a big rise in injuries to workers and other serious incidents.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said there were 50 "major injuries" in 2009/10, up by 20 on the previous year.

And the total of serious hydrocarbon releases - gas escapes regarded as "potential precursors to a major incident" - stood at 85, up from 61.

The HSE said no workers were killed in areas it regulated, for the third year.

The average number of major injuries for the previous five years was 42.

Steve Walker, head of the HSE's offshore division, explained: "I am pleased to see no fatalities for a third consecutive year in the areas we regulate, but the fact that 17 workers tragically died in other offshore-related travel incidents in the year is a stark reminder that hazards are ever present offshore.

"I am particularly disappointed, and concerned, that major and significant hydrocarbon releases are up by more than a third on last year.

"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."

He warned: "The challenge to improve safety will be ever greater as more offshore installations exceed their original design life.

"We will continue to take a tough line on companies who put their workers at risk."

'Nasty kick'

Robert Paterson, health and safety director of industry body Oil and Gas UK, told BBC Scotland: "The figures this year are particularly disappointing, we had a good year last year.

"This is a nasty kick for us."

He said they would continue the "relentless pursuit" of high safety standards.

A Super Puma helicopter crash in the North Sea saw 14 passengers and two crew lose their lives on 1 April last year.

The report covers the 27,000 workers employed in the UK's North Sea oil and gas industry.

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