ETU welcomes offshore worker safety report

The Senate inquiry into offshore safety has issued recommendations including more unannounced safety inspections by the regulator and increased penalties for safety breaches.

The inquiry included a hearing in Sale in July, where union representatives and former offshore workers gave evidence.

The final report for the inquiry into the work health and safety of workers in the offshore petroleum industry by the Senate Education and Employment References Committee details ways to improve worker safety. 

These include allowing more access and unannounced inspections from regulators and a recommendation to standardise legislation with other jurisdictions.

The report also recommends that the responsible authority (NOPESMA) be required to maintain a register of offshore health and safety representatives and that they be directed to take prosecution action where there has been repeated non-compliance with the legislation.

No job is worth losing your life for

The ETU welcomes the inquiry’s final report and hopes that it will lead to a change in the culture that sees livelihoods threatened or terminated if workers try to raise safety issues offshore.

Organiser Peter Mooney says he is still extremely concerned, noting it is 20 years since the 1998 explosion at Longford which changed many regulations for onshore workers.

“It is the one industry that our members are leaving because the safety near-miss incidents are occurring too frequently – and no job is worth losing your life for,” he said.

“If the public knew how many fires were started by faults on offshore platforms, or in an onshore processing facility, there would be a huge outcry that more isn’t being done.

“The age and condition of many offshore platforms and processing plants could easily cause another explosion, threatening lives and supply.

“The committee’s recommendations are probably not enough to prevent this happening, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”

NOPESMA a toothless tiger

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPESMA) acknowledged the issues raised by unions and industry through the inquiry and claimed to have “been working with both industry and unions to address their various concerns.” 

However, during the inquiry hearings unions labelled NOPESMA a “toothless tiger” and pointed out that the casualisation of the workforce made it harder for staff to report safety concerns.

Among the inquiry’s recommendations was a call for workforce representation on the NOPESMA board. The committee expressed “surprise” that the current board only included industry representatives, labelling it “disturbing”.