Total vows to listen on health and safety after pipe incident

Oil firm Total today moved to re-assure workers on the new gas plant next to the Sullom Voe terminal that it will listen to and act on concerns about health and safety.

It follows the exclusive revelation in The Shetland Times last month by worker Brian Wishart about men standing in a pipeline trench as the pipe was lowered down.

His photograph of the incident on the Laggan-Tormore project prompted Total to launch an investigation.

Mr Wishart, from Lerwick, had been working as a banksman but quit in frustration, saying no-one dared speak out about working conditions for fear of losing their job.

Today Total health and safety manager Ian Burrows, who held discussions with Mr Wishart as part of the investigation, insisted the company would listen to any concerns.

“We are more than happy for any person to raise a safety concern with us at any point in time,” he said.

“We also have a principle here that every person has the right to stop the job and to have it proved correct to them as to why that job is being done in a safe manner.”

As a result of the investigation into the pipeline incident, he said, the risks of such an activity had been underlined, proper training had been conducted and some equipment had been replaced.

Of the incident, he said: “There’d been some heavy rain, it had washed some large stones down into the pipeline which were beyond the size we can accept close to the pipeline.

“The gentlemen involved were trying to remove them with some rakes – these were inadequate for what they wanted to do. So they decided to go down into the trench and try to move the equipment.

“It’s a basic rule that you do not go underneath a suspended load and we’ve had to take extra steps to ensure everybody understands those risks.”

Mr Wishart, who was a safety rep at BP for nine years, had said the work was particularly dangerous when the 7.2 tonne pipe sections were being lowered into position by side booms.

He photographed two Italians employed by subcontractor Sicim, one supervisor and one banksman, bending down on the track beside a section of suspended pipe. He said: “It’s against all regulations to go under pipework but it was common practice.”

On another occasion he became aware that a man was inside a section of the 30-inch diameter pipe, apparently checking the internal machinery which joins the two pipes together, prior to welding. The man used a cigarette lighter to check the join, no torch being available. When Mr Wishart told Sicim safety advisers, they said: “Don’t tell anyone, we’ll deal with it.”

The company was at pains today to emphasise that any worker could speak out freely.

Total communications manager Brian O’Neill said the plant was on time and on budget to start producing gas in 2014.



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