Trade unions have warned the number of health and safety concerns being reported in the oil and gas sector has declined, amid concerns over job security.
A report from the Scottish Government published yesterday showed union representatives have been inundated with concerns from workers.
The STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) told the energy committee offshore unions had warned some employees had “fear of redundancy” with workers reluctant to report actual and potential safety breaches.
Stephen Boyd from the STUC said: “I do not doubt any of their good faith when it comes to supporting an excellent health and safety regime in the North Sea, but the problem is that entering a rapid cost-cutting phase can introduce bad incentives along the chain of employment, particularly at the lower and middle management and the employee sides.
“There is no longer the incentive that should be there for employees to report every health and safety infraction, because of a concern that doing so would tag them for future redundancies.”
The report from the Scottish Government heard oral evidence from across the sector, which has seen some of the lowest oil prices in more than a decade since last year.
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said while there was a system of anonymised reporting, it was “rarely, if ever used” by workers.
He said: “There is a health and safety hotline but it is rarely, if ever, used, because of the regulator’s inability to make unannounced visits. The lead-in and investigation time would invariably identify the individual who is reporting.
“Therefore, in effect, the phones on my and Tommy Campbell’s desks are the hotline, and we deal with reporting that way.”
Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said she was aware of concerns from the unions about health and safety issues being reported.
She said: “If there are concerns about the HSE whistleblowing line, which is the last defence, we need to address that. We should look at that so that people can feel confident that they can use the line and that their concerns will be listed to.”
Scottish Conservative politician Murdo Fraser and convener of the committee that pulled together evidence from across the sector said despite the current challenges the industry faces, he predicted a “revival” for the North Sea.
A spokesperson for HSE said: “HSE agrees that workers maintaining a dialogue with managers of offshore installations is vital not only for health and safety reasons, but also for wider production and efficiency.
“Offshore workers, like all other sectors of British industry can raise concerns with HSE in confidence. But the real point is that offshore workers should be free to discuss concerns with their managers, involving their safety representatives as appropriate. HSE will give careful consideration to the Scottish Parliament Committee report. But is, meanwhile, working with operators of offshore installations, trades unions and others to improve the engagement of offshore workers and improve worker’s confidence that concerns will be taken seriously by operators, investigated and if necessary, action taken. “