Just a few short months ago government appointee Lord Young was proclaiming that much of UK health & safety legislation is ‘just plain silly’.Today, Steve Walker, head of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) offshore division, has bluntly told companies that their health and safety record covering 27,000 workers is “simply not good enough.”He said: “The industry has shown it can do better and it must do in future.”Figures released on Tuesday by the HSE show that while there were no fatalities in the offshore operations it regulates for the third year in a row last year, the number of major injury cases rose from 30 in 2008-09 to 50.The deaths of 16 in a helicopter crash and a fatality involving a diving support vessel are not covered by the HSE figures but the report says the combined fatal and major injury rate almost doubled to 192 per 100,000 workers compared with 106 in 2008-09.Mr Walker also expresses concern at the increase from 61 to 85 in the number of incidents involving a major and significant escape of oil and gas that could have led to a major incident.In the wake of the recent BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, it will be interesting to hear Lord Young’s pronouncemnts on UK health & safety legislation when his review is complete. Let’s hope meantime that the oil and gas industry pays attention to the HSE’s concerns for worker safety on the rigs.Bonnar & Company specialises in industrial accident and injury claims and has a particular expertise in dealing with claims brought by workers in dangerous occupations. If you or a member of your family needs to discuss a potential claim please call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for a no obligation discussion.
In the hope of drawing a line under the crisis and in an attempt to quantify total costs, BP has announced its intention to cap its liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico disaster by offering those affected one-off compensation payouts in return for them waiving the right to sue.Tens of thousands of affected people in the Gulf, particularly those in the fishing and tourism industries, are weeks away from bankruptcy but it is very difficult to calculate future lost earnings. There is also no way for claimants to know if they can expect more compensation if they sue BP in the courts…but that, of course, would appear to be the idea.Ken Feinberg, who was appointed by the White House in June to administer the claims process on behalf of BP, will take charge within the next three weeks. BP has committed to pay $20bn into the fund in a series of instalments over the next three and a half years. When he takes over this month, for the first time claimants will be offered a one-off sum based on their future lost earnings, provided they agree not to sue BP as the company seeks to re-build its reputation.“The fund will offer lump sum payments in return for an agreement not to pursue claims in court,” a spokeswoman said. Claimants will also be able to receive an emergency payout to cover their lost income for up to six months without waiving their right to sue BP. Claims from those directly affected by the spill, such as fishermen, will qualify but uncertainty surrounds those more indirectly affected. For example, many owners of beach apartments in Florida – even where no oil hit the shore – face bankruptcy because holidaymakers stayed away. It seems that a scheme designed to simplify and fast-track compensation payments may not be quite so simple after all.In our view in its highly regrettable that the media spotlight continues to be targeted at the environmental cost of the oil spill whilst the 11 workers who died in the explosion receive scarcely a single reference by comparison. Let’s hope that the fate of the wrongful death and personal injury compensation claims on behalf of the victims’ families is monitored with the same level of scrutinty as the thousands of loss of earnings claims.
A chief engineer on the doomed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has told federal investigators that fire and gas-leak alarms had been turned off for at least a year because the platform’s managers didn’t want workers’ sleep disturbed by false alarms.The alarm system could have alerted the crew to shut down the rig’s engines to prevent triggering an explosion of natural gas that had surged up from the mile-deep well, according to Mike Williams, the chief engineer tech who worked for rig owner Transocean, which was drilling for BP. He testified to a panel from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department.He said: “I discovered it was ‘inhibited’ about a year ago, so I inquired. The explanation I got was that from the offshore installation manager down, they did not want people to wake up at 3 a.m. due to false alarm.”Williams said he complained repeatedly, from six months to three days before the rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later, killing 11 workers and causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He said the emergency shutdown system had problems previously.If this allegation turns out to be true, such actions reveal a truly appalling sense of priority on the part of senior management. To bet the health and safety of the rig workers against the possibility of a disturbed night’s sleep counts as a staggering dereliction of the duty of care owed to employees. Oil rigs are dangerous places and when accidents happen they are invariably very serious indeed – that is why the industry’s health and safety standards have to be very high.Bonnar & Company specialises in dangerous workplace accident claims. Our expert legal team can be contacted on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978.