Oil & Gas UK is introducing new guidelines setting out the principles and process to be followed in the event of permanent removal of contractor personnel from an offshore installation, a process commonly referred to as not required back or NRB. The new guidelines, which for the first time have been endorsed by industry and the trade unions alike, are being introduced in response to workforce concerns that the lack of a clear and transparent process could potentially prevent individuals from raising safety concerns.
Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK’s chief executive, explained, “Whilst we are only talking about a very small number of cases, we recognize that this emotive issue needed to be rectified by industry. We want to leave no doubt that safety issues can be raised by anyone at anytime, so even the perception that this was not always the case needed to be dealt with. I am particularly encouraged that the new guidelines have been endorsed by employers and trade union representatives alike.”
Chris Allen, health, safety and environment director with Oil & Gas UK, added: “There remain important legal, safety and security reasons as to why an employer must retain the right to decide who has access to its offshore installations. As such, the guidelines recognize the right of the Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) to remove someone from an installation if that person presents an immediate risk to safety or good order. However, the guidelines clearly state that this right should not be exercised without justifiable reason or without following the due process.
“The new guidelines will ensure that in those cases where removal is deemed to be an appropriate course of action by the OIM, this is done in a fair and transparent way, with appropriate investigation and justification being provided.”
John Taylor, regional industrial organiser, T&G section Unite the Union, said, “These new guidelines are a major step forward, not only in health and safety but in industrial relations. These guidelines will ensure that OIMs and senior managers are held to account for their decision to remove someone from the platform. I believe that there is a genuine commitment by industry leaders to ensure that an environment is created where individuals can actively participate in safety offshore, without fear of repercussions.”
Jake Molloy, regional organiser for RMT, added, “We welcome the introduction of this guidance and believe it can deliver on several fronts. From industry, it certainly delivers the message that NRB is no longer tolerable in this day and age. This means the guidance should act as a real deterrent to bad practice on the part of individual managers. We hope it will encourage greater involvement of workers in the safety agenda, as any perceived fears about NRB should be dispelled. Finally, in the event of a dispute about the removal of a worker, the process delivers a degree of fairness and natural justice which was previously absent. All of this can only have a positive effect on safety performance and industrial relations.”
Also welcoming the new guidelines, Ian Whewell, head of HSE’s Offshore Division commented, “This is a very positive step which I hope will make a real difference to safety offshore. The perception that raising safety issues may result in workers being unfairly not required back has been a real obstacle to improved workforce involvement in safety. I hope the new guidelines will now address situations which have led to this perception and give everyone offshore much more confidence to speak up for safety in the knowledge that in doing so they will be fairly treated.”
To ensure the effectiveness of the new guidelines, they will be jointly reviewed by Oil & Gas UK and the trade unions after a period of 12 months.