Safety concerns amid North Sea “culture of fear”

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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A “culture of fear” among North Sea oil workers is seeing safety standards fall in echoes of the pre-Piper Alpha era, MSPs have been told.

Riggers are increasingly worried about losing their jobs in the crisis hit industry and are reluctant to report concerns meaning life offshore is becoming “less safe”, union leaders have warned.

Jake Molloy of the RMT told MSPs on Holyrood’s economy committee that the situation may not change until “somebody is hurt.”

About 65,000 jobs have been axed in the offshore industry and its wider supply chain as energy giants cut costs to deal with the impact of the falling oil price which now stands at about $60 a barrel - down from $130 18 months ago.

Mr Molly said today there has been a “slash and burn” approach to cuts using the “blunt instrument” of axing staff.

He added: “That is having the effect of developing this culture of fear something I’ve been personally involved with after the big slump in ‘86 - and we all know what happened in ‘88.”

The Piper Alpha disaster that year saw 167 men killed after a fire on board the rig, with operator Occidental later criticised over its maintenance and safety procedures.

“There’s clearly a culture of fear developing on the ground where workers are reluctant to challenge, reluctant to report for fear of losing their jobs,” Mr Molloy added.

“That doesn’t necessarily make it unsafe - but it does absolutely make it less safe. That’s a serious worry.”

“That culture has other knock -on effects in terms of the lack of maintenance being done, the backlog of maintenance, how we maintain the infrastructure to develop and exploit what’s left.

“If we’re not careful we could very rapidly lose a lot of the infrastructure and it becomes uneconomical - so we start leaving the oil in the ground.”