ALMOST 60 per cent of offshore workers fear for their health and safety and say that standards have dropped in the past six months, according to a new report from Scotland’s biggest union in the sector.

In a survey for Unite, 58.5 per cent of offshore employees said there had been a drop in standards in the last six months, 38.2 per cent said they had remained the same and just 3.2 per cent claiming they had improved.

The fear of victimisation for reporting an incident was prevalent among 38.5 per cent and 82.5 per cent said there had been a reduction of skilled personnel, which had created issues around productivity and the ability to perform various tasks.

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Unite is now calling for a confidential whistleblowing helpline where offshore workers could raise their concerns – an idea that 86.9 per cent of workers support.

The union’s regional officer William Wallace said: “Every one of us in this country relies on the oil and gas produced by our offshore members. They do a difficult and dangerous job and their health and safety should be a paramount concern for all of us.

“But this survey shows a very worrying picture. Unite knows that North Sea operators are facing challenges due to falling oil prices. But companies have to realise that they can’t prop up their profits – or create a sustainable industry – by simply reducing the numbers of skilled workers on the job.

“And companies should never, ever make cuts that threaten health and safety and put the lives of our members at risk. The lessons of Piper Alpha should never be forgotten.

“We will be calling on the industry to work with health and safety bodies, with the trade unions, and with government so that we can get a confidential helpline created.

“No worker should feel victimised for raising these issues. The consequences could be catastrophic.”

Meanwhile, Subsea UK has urged the industry to embrace the “new norm” to safeguard the future of a sector that that is worth £9 billion to the UK economy. The call came as the industry body announced final details of its annual conference and exhibition, Subsea Expo, which is expected to attract around 5,000 industry figures to Aberdeen in February.

Its theme “Adapting to the New Norm” will consider the behavioural changes the industry must make to deliver the cost savings and efficiencies needed to sustain it for decades to come.

Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK, said the changes had been brought about over the past two years by the worst global downturn in the history of the sector.

“The environment in which we operate has changed and it’s changed quite dramatically for us all,” he said. “In the past, we’ve adjusted, reduced our costs, tightened our belts and made some tough decisions, however this time it’s different. We need to do more, as sitting back and waiting for the oil price to rise again is not sufficient and nor is short-term cost cutting.

“We can’t ignore the real changes that are happening in the world. It’s vital that the industry takes a long-term approach – it’s about making things simpler, safer, and more efficient today to deliver lasting results for decades to come.”

He added: “No matter what the future holds, we can’t afford to be complacent and slip back into old habits. The changes we make today are for good and must be embedded into everything we do from here on.”