A north-east union boss has warned there could be a “disaster in the North Sea” following the latest safety alert in which workers were exposed to a dangerous gas.
Unite regional officer John Boland gave the warning after it emerged the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued Total, which has a base in Aberdeen, with an immediate prohibition notice after staff were exposed to hydrogen sulphide on the Alwyn North platform.
It comes just days after the HSE reported a rise in North Sea platform incidents where there was a potential for serious injury or death.
Mr Boland told The Evening Express: “Only on Monday were the latest figures published by the HSE, showing the number of dangerous occurrences had increased last year by 18 to 235 and that over 1,200 non-compliance issues had been identified by the HSE.
“Now we have this ‘incident’ where offshore workers were exposed to hazardous substances on Total installations that could have led to injury or worse.
“There are meant to be safety systems and processes to stop this happening, but this shows they are failing or being ignored. Action needs to be taken before we end up with a disaster in the North Sea.”
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According to the latest HSE report, Total staff were extracting crude oil on the Alwyn North platform, 270 miles north-east of Aberdeen, on June 9 when machinery sent hydrogen sulphide gas into the breathing zone of employers “and other persons in the vicinity”.
The employees were exposed to up to 100 particles per million (PPM) – enough to cause eye irritation.
Exposure to more than 320ppm can lead to “the possibility of death”, the HSE said.
A spokesman for Total said: “This incident occurred on the Alwyn North platform during work to prepare a well for drilling.
“There were no injuries or harm to the health of those working on the area.
“Total is working closely with the HSE to understand the causes of this incident and we will continue to co-operate with them in every way to prevent a recurrence.”