Proposed EU offshore safety regulations were labelled “garbage” by union official John Taylor at a briefing in Aberdeen yesterday.
The proposals, which would see legislation brought in regulating offshore oil and gas operations across Europe, were also described as a backward step in safety for the North Sea oil and gas industry.
However, there was also hope that changes could be made which would see new rules issued as a directive instead of regulations, meaning individual European states would have more flexibility over how they were implemented.
The comments were made at an Oil & Gas UK seminar, which heard that industry, unions, the regulator and government were all united against Brussels bringing in regulations, which could mean having to revoke Britain’s existing safety regime.
Speaking at the event at Aberdeen Conference and Exhibition Centre, Energy Minister Charles Hendry said if the proposals were brought in as regulations they would be fought “every inch”.
“We have made a very strong case to the commission why a directive would be better,” he said. “We would fight regulation every step of the way.
“We are totally committed to learning where things can be improved, but it would be a mistake for us to have to dismantle the already robust regulations we have.”
John Taylor, regional officer at Unite, said the EU should listen to the industry.
“This garbage is fundamentally wrong and has to be opposed,” he said. “We all learned from Macondo – if we get it wrong, people die.
“If there is one message for the commission it is ‘work with us, not against us’. We should all have one interest, the safety of the offshore workforce.”
The Macondo well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 saw the Deepwater Horizon rig explode and 11 men were killed.
Oil & Gas UK’s health, safety and employment issues director Robert Paterson said regulation would be five times the effort of a directive and would take longer to implement.
Steve Walker, head of the Health and Safety Executive’s offshore division, said: “We have an established and I think sophisticated regime. While there is no doubt we can still learn, we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We do not want something so disruptive people will take their eyes off the ball.
“My understanding is we are being understood and listened to, but there is still a lot to play for. Industry has to continue to get its message across.”
Representatives from at least 25 North Sea oil and gas firms, from BP and Chevron to Suncor Energy and Chrysaor, attended the event, alongside supply chain companies, showing the level of interest from those operating in the basin.
The event also heard from a representative from Norway’s oil industry association OLF, the Netherlands’ industry association NOGEPA and the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association, all of which opposed a regulatory approach.