An oil company has won its fight against claims that staff working on an offshore platform suffered from a lack of privacy.
Talisman Energy UK was served with an improvement notice earlier this year after a Health and Safety Executive inspection on the Tartan Alpha installation.
The firm was ordered to make changes when it emerged more than two personnel were “routinely” allocated to the same cabin during a single 24-hour period.
Inspectors claimed this breached the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction etc) Regulations 1996 and meant a “loss of privacy” as well as “insufficient showering and toilet facilities”.
Talisman lodged an appeal against the notice on the grounds the cabins were never occupied by more than two people at any one time and a tribunal opened in Aberdeen last week.
The hearing was scheduled to last at least another five days, but yesterday, the panel of judges was told the HSE wished to withdraw its opposition to the appeal.
Peter Gray QC, acting for Talisman, asked the improvement notice be cancelled, as permitted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Solicitor Chris Dickson confirmed this was the HSE’s new position and employment judge Reg Christie agreed to dispose of the matter.
Last night, an HSE spokeswoman said its decision was based on the individual facts of the specific case and insisted the move did not set any precedent.
She added: “Offshore workers have to work long hours in very demanding environmental conditions.
“HSE will monitor the accommodation standards on all offshore installations and will take enforcement action in appropriate cases.”
Geoff Holmes, senior vice-president of Talisman Energy UK, said the firm was pleased to have had the opportunity to explain the situation on Tartan.
He added: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our people is our number one priority.
“We do not believe we have overcrowding there or on any other installation.
“We always work closely with the HSE, sharing best practices and lessons learned to drive continuous improvement in our safety performance – a goal that is in both our interests.
“We appreciate the excellent work the HSE performs in maintaining safety standards in the UK – standards which are recognised as world-class.”
During the hearing, HSE inspector Robert Drummond, who visited the platform in January, described the living arrangements on Tartan as “claustrophobic” and some of the worst he had seen.
He also claimed he was told part of the workforce had been sent home the week before his visit to mask the true situation.
But Mr Gray said Talisman had made no attempt whatsoever to conceal the platform’s growing number of staff from the HSE.
He also told the tribunal the HSE’s assessment of cabin volume was measured by the total number of people there in a 24-hour period, rather than the “commonsense” number of how many people were using it at any one time.
He added that many of the concerns raised by Mr Drummond were not relevant to the issue of privacy.