Workers were sent home deliberately from a North Sea oil platform to get round concerns about “overcrowded” living arrangements, a health-and-safety inspector claimed yesterday.
Robert Drummond said he was “upset” to discover from an employee during a visit to Talisman Energy’s Tartan rig earlier this year that part of the workforce had been removed the week before.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served the firm with an improvement notice in February after an inspection indicated workers were suffering from a “loss of privacy” and had “insufficient showering and toilet facilities”.
It is alleged more than two people are often allocated to the same cabin during a single 24-hour period, which the organisation says breaches the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction etc) Regulations 1996.
Talisman is appealing against the notice and a tribunal opened in Aberdeen last week. The hearing had previously heard the HSE – represented by solicitor Chris Dickson – had already threatened the firm with enforcement action over accommodation issues.
This had been avoided, judges were told on Friday, when the company promised to assign more than two to a four-bed cabin only in exceptional cases and not without “first notifying and consulting” the HSE.
Yesterday, Mr Drummond – who visited Tartan Alpha in January – said the firm had “routinely” breached this limit and tried to mask the true situation by taking a number of workers off the installation.
“I got upset when I found out all the workers had gone home the previous week,” he said.
In cross-examination, solicitor James Gray said the idea that Talisman had deliberately sent away members of the workforce “did not make sense”, as the firm had made “no attempt whatsoever” to “conceal” the platform’s growing staff numbers from the HSE.
Mr Drummond was then asked by employment judge Reg Christie whether he had looked into the reasons behind the reduction upon hearing the allegation, to which he replied, “No”.
He said: “I don’t think it was any secret the HSE was unhappy with Talisman putting three to four people in a cabin. They were aware I was coming out to look at accommodation standards.”
Mr Gray later told the tribunal that the statutory regulations and the HSE’s interpretation of them were not one and the same.
He also said conditions would be no more cramped in a four-berth room shared by three workers – if one was on the night shift – than one shared by two employees both working during the day.
The hearing continues.