Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) is to lead fresh efforts to stamp out offshore workers being banned from any installation in the North Sea without being given a reason.
Moves to end the long-standing practice of people being told by platform management they are not required back (NRB) were revealed yesterday by Chris Allen, health, safety and environment director of the industry body.
He was speaking to the Press and Journal during an OGUK breakfast in Aberdeen tackling the issue of safety in the oil and gas industry.
Mr Allen said the practice of people being NRB was not as widespread as rumoured, with only a handful of cases annually.
He added: “Unions will claim that workers are NRB’d for airing concerns about safety, but managers say that they have the right to manage. In order to preserve discipline, good order and safety, platform management have to have the ability to remove individuals.”
Mr Allen said OGUK’s predecessor, the UK Offshore Operators’ Association, had come up with guidelines in 2004 to end workers being NRB without a proper procedure, but had not won the backing of all sides and this had undermined their effectiveness.
He said OGUK was now aiming to develop new guidelines, which it hoped would be supported by all sides, in the second half of this year, adding: “The aim is to come up with an agreed way of handling such situations more transparently and which would be endorsed by the companies and the unions.
“The oil companies would still have the right to have individuals removed, but there would have to be a good reason and a proper process would have to be followed.”
John Methven, Petrofac’s director of group health, safety, security and environment and integrity assurance, was one of the speakers at yesterday’s breakfast. He said the issue of NRB was serious and had been used in the industry for 30 years.
Mr Methven added that the shadow of NRB hanging over offshore workers must go.
Rick Cohagan, managing director of Chevron Upstream Europe, said NRB occurred very rarely, but it did happen, adding: “Because it creates such strong emotion, if it happens one time it is one time too many. I am determined to try and solve it.”
Mr Methven and Mr Cohagan are the joint chairmen of the UK offshore oil and gas industry’s flagship safety initiative, Step Change in Safety.
John Taylor, regional industrial organiser for the T&G, told the breakfast that the individual being banned should be given the right to challenge the person who had NRB’d them.
He said a worker being NRB had no legal rights.
He added: “As long as the threat of being NRB’d exists, people will be afraid of that threat. I think it’s a big issue. We all agree we should make platforms as safe as possible, but the spectre of NRB does not help.”