The UK Supreme Court has ended a long-running legal battle between Chevron and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over a safety notice handed down in 2013.
HSE had argued that evidence used around a decision to overrule a prohibition notice should not have been considered.
The safety watchdog issued a notice to Chevron after a routine inspection at the Captain field in the North Sea, which found corrosion on stairs leading to a helipad were unsafe.
However, Chevron later carried out tests on the material which found they were in fact safe – which formed the basis of a tribunal decision to overturn the prohibition notice.
HSE argued this was incorrect as the evidence was not available to the inspector at the time.
After going through the Court of Session and now the Supreme Court – the UK’s last stop for appeals – the HSE case has now been thrown out.
It sets a precedent for new evidence – not available at the time for inspectors carrying out a notice – to be used by appeal tribunals.
The supreme court decision states: “there is no good reason for confining the tribunal’s consideration to the material that was, or should have been, available to the inspector.”
A Chevron spokesman said: “Chevron North Sea Ltd (CNSL) welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss an appeal by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regarding a prohibition notice cancelled by an Employment Tribunal in 2015.
“CNSL values the positive and productive relationship with the HSE and looks forward to continuing the collaboration with the HSE in maintaining safe and reliable operations.”
A spokesman for HSE said: “This appeal was not about regulatory process or the way our inspectors enforce but rather about the test which an Employment Tribunal must apply in considering an appeal against an Enforcement Notice
“This ruling gives clarity on this point of law after conflicting decisions of the appeal courts in Scotland and England & Wales.
“HSE notes the ruling clearly states that no criticism of the inspector or his actions in this case can be suggested, as inspectors often have to take decisions as a matter of urgency and without the luxury of comprehensive information.
“The judgement also noted the important role played by prohibition notices in improving public safety by encouraging employers to have good systems in place to demonstrate that there is no material risk.
“This ruling will not affect the way HSE inspectors carry out their regulatory duties.”