Serious safety breaches on North Sea rigs revealed

The oil companies guilty of a series of safety breaches on North Sea rigs have been named and shamed by the government's health and safety watchdog - but only after a freedom of information request by the Sunday Herald.

In the past three years, Shell, Total, BP, Chevron, Maersk and other companies have all faced legal action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), forcing them to fix flaws in their crucial safety and maintenance systems.

Numerous rules designed to reduce the risk of accidents, fires and explosions and prevent workers from being injured or killed have been broken. Fire doors, valves, and other critical safety equipment have been found to be faulty, and maintenance regimes inadequate.

The Sunday Herald submitted a request under freedom of information legislation, asking the HSE to lift the veil on the companies. At first it refused, but after an internal review, officials agreed to identify the installations served with improvement or prohibition notices as a result of the inspections.

Late on Friday, the HSE released a list of 18 instances between March 2005 and October 2007 when legal notices had been served. The most frequent offender was the biggest and richest oil company in the North Sea, Shell, which received six notices covering five installations.

Revealed: North Sea Safety Flaws (Sunday Herald, 9 March 2008)