‘No guarantees Macondo won’t happen again’

Inspectors from the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have hit out at BP, saying the supermajor failed to give adequate safety training to crew at one of its North Sea installations.

A report in the Daily Telegraph this morning cited a letter sent to BP executives by HSE inspectors in October last year which said the “training of some new personnel to basic safety standards was ineffective”.

The letter followed an investigation prompted by a complaint made by a worker at BP’s Clair field.
The letter added there was “evidence of a culture among your contractors, Seawell (up to senior levels of management), of working outside of procedures, permit or permit conditions”.

A Seawell spokesman said: “These investigations did not result in any improvement notice being raised or issued against Seawell.
“Seawell (has) the highest regard for all health and safety related matters and take all such investigations as very serious.”

A reply to the HSE from the head of operations at Clair said: “Your letter provoked consternation amongst the Clair offshore team, who strongly refute the allegations set out in your letter.”

Separately, the Financial Times said Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) inspectors also cited BP for failing to conduct oil spill exercises adequately.
The documents were released following Freedom of Information Act requests.

Records show that four out of five of BP’s North Sea installations inspected last year were issued with warnings for failure to comply with regulations on oil spills.
Meanwhile, BP’s outgoing chief executive, Tony Hayward, will appear before a UK parliamentary committee later today to discuss North Sea safety.
BP declined immediate comment.

DECC’s inspections focus on manned installations that could be responsible for spills and assesses companies against regulations, as well as a company’s internal oil pollution emergency plans, which DECC must approve.

The HSE aims to inspect large manned installations two to three times a year, and reviews smaller and mobile drilling units once a year.
In documents obtained from both sets of inspectors several platforms stand out, including BP’s Magnus platform, which is in the UK’s most northerly oilfield north east of the Shetland Islands and has been in operation for 27 years.

The facility was in breach of oil spill preparedness regulations during all three inspections carried out by DECC since 2006. The platform also features in inspection letters by the HSE.

The Telegraph report also said that records of HSE inspections carried out in the past five years reveal issues such as an insufficient number of lifeboats fit for purpose, defective emergency lights and poor maintenance of walkways and gratings.

In one document, from 2008, the inspector criticizes BP’s management policy in relation to maintenance and repairs.
Later today, DECC said that it is now satisfied with BP’s safety training procedures in the North Sea after the company confirmed it had completed training and oil pollution emergency plans.

BP confirmed today that offshore managers had completed the required training, DECC said.
“BP have also confirmed that their installations have held exercises within the last year which tested their oil pollution emergency plans against appropriate scenarios and actions taken in response thereto,” a spokeswoman for the government said.

“DECC is therefore satisfied that sufficient provisions are in place but will continue to monitor all operators activities, including BP, as part of an ongoing regulatory compliance program.”


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