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Watch your water works'.

UK operators have been reminded by the Health and Safety Executive to take steps to prevent the spread of legionella in water systems on offshore installations.

"Dutyholders are required to assess the risks from legionella bacteria within their potable water systems and put in place a scheme to prevent or control the risk," said the HSE in an industry‑wide safety notice.

The HSE explained that the notice was being issued after a series of recent offshore installation inspections that identified "significant failings in the control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems and resulted in formal enforcement action being taken against the duty holders concerned". Shell, Chevron and Talisman have all received improvement notices relating to legionella bacteria over the last year.

Legionalla causes Legionnaires' disease, which is a potentially deadly form of pneumonia which could kill you! Apparently there are about 300 to 500 reported cases of Legionnaires' disease each year in the UK as a whole.

Is your installation past its sell by date?

Help may be at hand, as a major HSE inspection programme specifically looking at ageing offshore platforms has been launched in the UK.

The programme is due to run until September 2013, so we expect there's going to be a lot of engineering/construction work going on around the patch given the state of some installations we've heard about. Some members' report their platforms are held together by scaffolding, while others suggest it's more like 'Denso tape' and string. We hear about the "blue rope" experience where all the cable trays and ladder racking is hanging from pieces of blue rope. One guy told us ‑ "I was in Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt recently, and despite it being thousands of years old it was in better nick than some areas of my rig!" Steve Walker, head of the Offshore Safety Division (OSD) at the HSE said: "The issue of ageing installations is not a new one, and we have been working with the industry to address the risks for several years. We are very clear that if installations are going to be used beyond their original anticipated design life then operators need to look to the future and anticipate inevitable consequences. This is a priority for us."

The programme, which is officially called ‑ "The Ageing & Life Extension Inspection Programme", or Key Programme 4 (KP4), follows on from the HSE's 2007 KP3 report, and that report painted a pretty bad picture of offshore safety when more than 100 installations were inspected. KP3 was reviewed last year and the publication concluded that safety had improved, but there was still significant room for improvement especially for workforce involvement.

So, whether your installation is in need of a 'makeover' or perhaps extensive cosmetic surgery, let us know and we'll raise your concerns here.

Only one case has so far been reported offshore in the last 10 years. So the HSE action might be seen as being a wee bit heavy handed, but the HSE said; "Although the risk of contracting the disease through exposure offshore is low, legionella bacteria are known to colonise and multiply in hot and cold water systems on offshore installations".

The Offshore Energy Branch welcomes tough action being taken by the HSE on this serious failing to control legionella bacteria. It is wholly unacceptable and members are advised that if they suspect any problems regarding the water facilities on their installation they should raise it immediately at their safety meetings and with their Safety Rep's ‑ get it recorded. If there is no action taken then contact the HSE or notify us at RMT/OILC and we'll chase it up for you.

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