The head of the oil company involved in BP’s catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill says he “cares deeply” about the way people work offshore.
Transocean managing director Paul King dismissed an official report warning that bullying could risk North Sea safety. He said its leaked findings were based on “isolated cases”.
His denial came during a grilling by MPs at a Commons energy and climate change committee hearing which heard UK Oil and Gas chief executive Malcolm Webb issue a plea against UK Government cuts hitting Health and Safety Executive expertise.
He said it remains “vital” that cuts being talked about do not affect the regulator’s ability to police the industry effectively.
He also warned that imposing a US-style moratorium on deep drilling operations in the North Sea would have a “serious” effect on securing the £60billion of investment required over the next 10 years to safeguard energy supplies for the UK.
After the hearing, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Liberal Democrat MP Sir Robert Smith, a senior member of the committee, said: “It is important that Transocean makes sure that the message gets to all levels of the company that bullying is unacceptable.”
Mr King was responding to challenges from MPs over the HSE report which said there was evidence of “unacceptable behaviours” of “bullying, aggression, harassment, humiliation and intimidation” which could affect safety.
He said the report “needs to be read in its entirety” because it contained positive as well as negative comments.
He added that an exercise carried out involving 500 of its 1,200 staff did not provide any evidence of widespread intimidation, and said: “We reiterated quite clearly it was unacceptable to condone any sort of intimidation, bullying or issues that affect the way they work.”
He dismissed as “offensive” the suggestion the drilling sector operates a tougher work environment than the rest of the offshore industry.
Sir Robert said it was “a worrying phenomenon” that when HSE inspectors turned up a number of people told them they felt there was a culture of bullying.
It was “crucial” staff should have the confidence to act if they saw something going wrong, he said.
Mr Webb issued a statement claiming an urgent review of North Sea safety had been carried out after the Macondo well blowout in the Gulf which underscored the belief that the UK has an effective regime, imposed in the wake of the Piper Alpha disaster.
He said the UK Government was right to resist calls for a drilling moratorium.
RMT union regional organiser Jake Molloy said afterwards: “Mr King has to defend his company, but the reality is that the HSE has found these problems during an extensive inspection project.
“His safety message is being lost at middle management level because they are caught between the rock of safety and the hard place of economics and productivity and this can only be addressed if workers can make reports without fear of disciplinary action.”