Health and safety regulation on the uk continental shelf: Evolution and future prospects

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Introduction Health and safety at work in the offshore oil and gas industry has moved up the political agenda once again, this time not only because of immediate concerns for the well-being of the workforce but also because of a growing realisation of the connection between safe operations and environmental protection. In the aftermath of the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 in particular, the political debate has in part been about the appropriate orientation of such safety regulation. This is because the United States, perhaps uniquely among developed hydrocarbon producers, had maintained its faith in a detailed prescriptive regulatory approach, whereas most others had shifted to a goal-setting safety case approach following the Piper Alpha disaster on the UK continental shelf in 1988. In such circumstances, it is timely to revisit the rationale for the United Kingdom’s shift in regulatory orientation and to consider how the safety case approach has performed after a decade and half of operation. Accordingly, this chapter first of all traces the evolution of offshore safety regulation in the United Kingdom with particular emphasis on the nature of the shift from the approach under the Mineral Workings (Offshore Installations) Act 1971 and its related regulations to that heralded by the Offshore Safety Act 1992 and implemented by subsequent regulations. Thereafter, it examines experience with the safety case regime, especially the reasons for the 2005 reforms and the implications of the critical 2007 asset integrity report from the Health and Safety Executive’s Offshore Safety Division. The chapter also considers the implications of the October 2011 proposals for offshore safety regulation from the European Commission. Insofar as these appear not to threaten the United Kingdom’s approach in the way that some had feared given the Commission’s initial Communication and especially the European Parliament’s Resolution, both published in October 2010, the political debate in Europe might be perceived to have been resolved in favour of the status quo.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRisk Governance of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781139198301
ISBN (Print)9781107025547
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2014.


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