THE drilling company involved in BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill faces a Commons grilling today amid claims that its North Sea workers have faced “bullying” and “intimidation”.
MPs will challenge Transocean managing director Paul King about allegations made in a Health and Safety Executive report warning of “potential safety implications”.
It was drawn up in February based on inspections before the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Liberal Democrat MP Sir Robert Smith, who is a senior member of the climate-change committee, said: “I hope the hearing will provide an opportunity for Transocean to address these concerns.
“Clearly, any culture that causes people to think twice before raising safety concerns puts operations at risk.”
The committee is conducting an urgent inquiry into “the implications of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for deep-water drilling in the UK”.
It is also examining “the extent to which the existing UK safety and environmental regulatory regime is fit for purpose” and “the hazards and risks of deep-water drilling to the west of Shetland”.
The RMT union’s regional organiser, Jake Molloy, accused Transocean of a rigid disciplinary approach based on blaming individual staff, which was having a negative effect on workers.
He said: “If you have a situation in which crew are frightened to challenge and question what is going on because they fear reprisals, you have a culture where the potential for serious incidents increases.”
He claimed the number of dismissals across the drilling sector had increased significantly and called for legal protection for safety representatives, with the power to stop operations on safety grounds.
Rutherglen and Hamilton West Labour MP Tom Greatrex, a member of the committee, said the company would face “tough questions” because any “unacceptable behaviour” by operators would be worrying.
Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran warned of “a culture of fear” and said: “Many drilling companies, including Transocean, have poor relations with employees, which leads to increased risk.”
SNP energy spokesman Mike Weir, who is also MP for Angus, said: “There is a culture here that is potentially dangerous.”
The report said: “This particular non-technical report was sent to Transocean in February. No enforcement notices were issued as a result.”
Transocean said: “The report confirmed that Transocean has demonstrated a commitment to fostering an organisational culture based on trust and respect that improves our safety and performance records.
“Third-party assessments such as those conducted by HSE and Lloyd’s Register are a key part of the company’s philosophy of continuous review and improvement.”
The report said “unacceptable behaviours” by management were in evidence on more than one rig visited and included “bullying, aggression, harassment, humiliation and intimidation”.
It said: “Such behaviours are causing some individuals to exhibit symptoms of work-related stress, with potential safety implications.”
However, the report said the company was pursuing several safety initiatives and had loyal employees.