HC Deb 29 July 1975 vol 896 cc448-9W
Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy, in view of the recurring deaths of divers and other employees on oil rigs and platforms in the North Sea, and the overlap between those responsible for medical services, and health, welfare and safety, and the number of oil firms and sub-contractors involved, if he will consider, as a matter of urgency, the appointment of a working party to review the situation, to take evidence, to seek advice as to administrative and medical arrangements for health and safety in such oil exploration and production activities, both ashore and afloat, and to report.

Mr. John Smith

I doubt whether such a working party could play any useful rôle at this stage, though I will bear the suggestion in mind. As I told hon. Members during the discussion in Committee of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipelines Bill, the Government have under close study the particular problem of responsibilities in the sphere of offshore safety. At present my Department is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of all personnel working on offshore installations in the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea, and the Department of Employment, through the Health and Safety Commission, is responsible for those working on land and in coastal waters. There is close co-operation between our two Departments and the commission on such matters.

The treatment of casualties on offshore installations is the responsibility of the operators, who use general practitioners' services available on site under private contracts. On shore appropriate facilities are provided by the National Health Service and the operators. These are kept under review by the Health Departments.

On the specific and important subject of the safety of divers, the Government have set up an inter-departmental working group to examine the feasibility of a common set of regulations, with a view both to harmonising standards and codes of practice, and to ensuring that adequate arrangements are made for the protection of the divers themselves. The Manpower Services Commission's Training Services Agency, which is part of the Department of Employment group, is pressing ahead with drawing up standards for training in this field, and the commission is setting up the Underwater Training Centre at Fort William to provide deep water diving training.

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