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Just one in thirty North sea oil and gas rigs are safe. 

The Health and Safety Executive said companies had become so focused on preventing major offshore incidents that they are 'neglecting general maintenance' of their oil and gas platforms. More than 96pc of installations in the North Sea were found to need improvements during inspections over the past three years, with 20pc showing "major failings".

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said companies had become so focused on preventing major offshore incidents - like BP's oil spill - that they are "neglecting general maintenance" of their oil and gas platforms.

The HSE said it would launch a further inspection programme to follow up on the poor performers and visit platforms that had not been inspected yet for corrosion. Steve Walker, HSE's head of offshore, warned that workers' day-to-day safety must not be sidelined, as poor maintenance may be a contributing factor in major incidents.

"The management of external corrosion to safety-related plant and equipment offshore must not become the 'poor relation' offshore," he said. "While we recognise the commitment of companies in preventing any failures that could lead to major incidents offshore, it is essential that they are not neglecting the general fabric of their installations."

In March this year, it emerged that a fire which damaged a North Sea gas platform was caused by a corroded ring, which resulted in a leak. Tuesday's HSE report looked at maintenance of walkways, stairways, piping, pipe supports, cable trays and valves.

 "Offshore installations that progressively deteriorate and corrode, with hazardous walkways and poorly supported pipes or other infrastructure are not only putting workers at risk of serious injury, but in the event of a major incident can exacerbate the consequences," Mr Walker added. "The report shows that the industry still has a way to go in this, and given the ageing nature of our offshore platforms this is not an issue that can be ignored."  

The report also found that some companies were not pro-active in their approach to upgrading platforms. Robert Paterson, safety director at Oil and Gas UK, the industry group whose members include BP and Royal Dutch Shell, said: "The oil and gas industry is determined to stay on top of corrosion management – a never-ending task in the harsh environment of the North Sea."

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