LONDON (Dow Jones)–Recent incidents in the U.K. North Sea have highlighted the dangers faced by workers as ageing oil and gas installations reach the end of their productive lives, but while greater scrutiny by operators is required, proposed new regulation by the European Union could actually increase the risks of a serious accident, the country’s main offshore union said Wednesday.
More than two hundred Total SA (TOT) workers were evacuated from the Elgin platform last month after a huge gas leak was detected onboard, while last weekend a fire broke out in a Nexen Inc. (NXY) processing unit on the giant Buzzard field.
These events have served to shine the spotlight on a long-standing issue, but the best way of ensuring future worker safety is to continue developing the local system of employee and industry engagement and not to hand over responsibility to the EU, which has no experience or competence in this area, said National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers regional organizer Jake Molloy, whose proposed resolution on this matter was adopted by the Scottish Trade Union Congress in Inverness Wednesday.
Molloy, who described the move as “ill-conceived and poorly thought out,” said workforce involvement had led to “significant safety improvements–with more still to come–but all the good work currently underway could be jeopardized with the application of the EU regulation.”
The call was echoed by fellow U.K. union, Unite. “Now, more than ever, we need a renewed focus on offshore health and safety. Trade unions must ensure that health and safety standards are never compromised due to commercial pressures–any risk at all is too high a risk for offshore workers and their families,” said Unite Regional Industrial Officer John Taylor.
-By Alexis Flynn, Dow Jones Newswires