Consternation over European safety plan

Offshore staff

LONDON – Industry association Oil & Gas UK and various UK trade unions have voiced concerns over the European Union’s proposed regulation of offshore oil and gas safety.

In a joint statement, they claim the action would have a detrimental impact on standards of safety and environmental protection on the UK continental shelf (UKCS).

Oil & Gas UK’s CEO Malcolm Webb said: “We fear that far from adding any tangible benefit to the UK’s world class system, moving overall responsibility for offshore safety to the EU, which has absolutely no experience or competence in the area, would undermine our high standards of offshore safety and environmental protection.”

The UK groups claim the proposed regulation would require re-writing or revocation of significant parts of existing legislation. Almost 300 UK safety cases would then need to be re-drafted, re-submitted to the UK Health & Safety Executive, and re-accepted. This would divert substantial resources into desk-bound paperwork compliance.

In Britain’s case, they add, the offshore safety regime has involved extensive collaboration between the regulator, the industry, and its workforce in developing safety legislation and supporting guidance. In contrast, the EU regulation fails to acknowledge the importance of the workforce and safety representatives offshore and their role in regulatory compliance.

Further, the UK groups claim that the regulation is poorly drafted and ambiguous, and there is an absence of interpretative guidance and completely impractical timescales. This could delay new oil and gas field development, with potentially serious knock-on effects for UK oil and gas production.

Webb said: “The four European countries that account for 90% of the region’s production already operate under safety regimes that the Commission accepts are global exemplars. To propose that legislative competence should shift from these countries to the 27 EU member states, the vast majority of whom have no involvement in the industry at all, is totally unjustified.

“The improvement of other safety regimes to bring them up to North West European standards would be best handled by a properly worded EU Directive which would also have the advantage of leaving the existing world class safety systems intact. If that route was adopted, the UK oil and gas industry would be happy to work closely with the Commission to help disseminate North Sea experience and good practice."

4/25/2012

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