HC Deb 30 July 1976 vol 916 cc432-4W
Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the present division of departmental responsibility for the safety of offshore workers engaged in oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

The Prime Minister

A detailed study has recently been completed of responsibilities for the health and safety workers involved in offshore gas and oil exploration and exploitation in order to see whether existing arrangements meet present day needs and make the best use of the knowledge and experience of the Government Departments and agencies concerned.

In the light of the recommendation arising from this study, the Government have decided to extend the application of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by Order in Council to cover workers engaged in the offshore oil and gas industry, including divers. The Health and Safety Commission will, therefore, take on responsibility for the occupational safety of workers on all oil and gas offshore installations, including submarine pipelines and pipelaying operations. This will mean that one agency will be responsible for ensuring that common standards of occupational safety are applied both on and offshore.

But occupational risks are not the only hazards facing offshore workers, and in view of the knowledge and experience developed by the Department of Energy on the technical aspects of structural safety and the "blow-out" risks involved in tapping the reservoir my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will retain his existing responsibilities for safeguarding offshore workers against such dangers.

The responsibility for inspecting offshore installations will remain with the Petroleum Engineering Directorate of the Department of Energy which will, therefore, act as the agent of the Health and Safety Commission as regards occupational safety.

The structural safety of pipelaying vessels will be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade to accord with his existing responsibilities for safety of ships and seafarers which in general remain undisturbed.

These arrangements will produce a more rational redistribution of responsibility than exists at present. Nevertheless, there will be a continuing need to ensure the effective co-ordination of Govern- ment activities offshore and I have, therefore, decided to set up an interdepartmental Committee on Marine Safety at official level to keep this under review. It will be under the chairmanship of the Department of Trade.

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