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UK offshore injuries tick up after record low

The reportable injury rate among the UK’s offshore oil and gas operators rose last year, increasing from 0.25 in 2015 to 0.30 injuries per 100 workers. The increase bucks a long-term downward trend in the sector, according to trade body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK).

UK offshore injuries tick up after record low

OGUK’s latest health and safety report provides sector-wide data for 2016 on personal safety, process safety, health and helicopters, plus anonymised benchmarking data from 32 installation operators.

It notes that 2016 saw the offshore sector’s first fatality since 2013-2014 – a worker died unpacking an offshore container. 

OGUK notes that the increase in the reportable injury rate – injuries that necessitate seven days away from work – follows a historic low in 2015. 

“Although any increase is unwelcome, the rate for 2016 remains the third lowest since the measure was first calculated in 1995-1996,” said the sector body.

The report also shows that the specified injury rate, which measures more severe injuries, decreased to 0.07 per 100 workers, which is the lowest recorded level, and a 43% reduction since 2013 when the current reporting categories under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) came into effect. 

Specified injuries include fractures to major limbs, amputations and crush injuries to the head or torso causing damage to the brain or internal organs. The rate has been on an overall downward trend since 2009-2010 but shows signs of starting to plateau. The total non-fatal injury rate, which combines over-seven-day and specified injuries, mirrors this long-term trend.

Reportable non-fatal injuries per 100 workers compare well with other industrial sectors such as manufacturing, transport/storage and construction. The three-year rolling average in offshore work is below 0.6; the figure for construction is just over 1.0. 

Data sourced from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) on the lost-time injury frequency per million working hours demonstrates that the UK also remains below the European average. The UK’s rate of just under 0.6 per million working hours remained unchanged compared with 2015, comparable with Denmark’s performance, worse than the Netherlands (under 0.4 per million working hours) but better than Norway’s (just under 1 per million working hours).

The report includes data on leading indicators for major accidents hazards. These include hydrocarbon releases and maintenance backlogs. 

The data on dangerous occurrences show that dropped objects is the most frequent type of incident, making up 20% of the total incidents reported. Hydrocarbon releases came a close second (18%). 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) set up a database on hydrocarbon releases in 1996 in response to Lord Cullen’s recommendation in his inquiry into the 1988 explosion and fire on the Piper Alpha production platform in the North Sea, which killed 167 workers. 

There were 23 major and significant releases, which are defined as those that have the potential to escalate, in 2016, the lowest number on record and less than 20% of the figure reported in 1997.

Helicopter transport risks are an area of significant concern for offshore workers, as multiple-fatality incidents continue to occur worldwide. Though there was only one reportable non-fatal helicopter accident on the UK continental shelf in 2016, 119 offshore workers and flight crew have been killed in helicopter crashes since 1976. The number of passenger journeys by helicopter to and from offshore installations decreased from around 825,000 in 2015 to around 715,000 last year, mainly due to effects of the low oil price on exploration drilling.

Ten RIDDOR-reportable ill-health cases were recorded in the sector in 2016. The annual total has varied over the years, but the annual average reported since 2000 has been just under 15. Of last year’s total, seven were related to musculoskeletal disorders, primarily hand-arm vibration syndrome. 

OGUK’s report shows that the proportion of offshore workers failing medical examinations was 1.1% (1,125 workers), consistent with the previous three years. The most common reasons for individuals being declared unfit to work offshore has remained unchanged. The 2016 data shows that blood pressure (23%) was the most common reason workers failed medicals, followed by diabetes (12%) and cardiovascular disease (9%). In 2014, a study was published showing the average weight of offshore workers had increased by 20% in the previous 30 years.

Ian Waldram, a longstanding member of IOSH’s Offshore Group, said the report provided strong evidence of steadily improving sector-wide hazard management. 

“It is doubtful that any other UK employment sector could compile and publish a similar summary of their overall annual health and safety performance,” he said. “But, most importantly, it doesn’t shrink from reporting ‘bad news’ when there is some.”



Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton was previously acting editor of IOSH Magazine. Before that he was editor of SHP and he has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner


  • Maybe this rise relates to

    Permalink Submitted by Craig Davidson on 1 August 2017 - 12:14 pm

    Maybe this rise relates to rota's changing to a three on and three off rotation. I wonder how many of the statistics happen in the third week of offshore working when the workers are exhausted.


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