The UK offshore safety watchdog has taken Apache North Sea to task after key staff on the Forties Delta platform put themselves in danger by getting too close to a pressurised gas leak they had gone to investigate.

The uncontrolled gas release happened from a pressure transmitter on a compressor as it was being started up on 13 March this year, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Despite knowing that the pressure in the system from where the gas was escaping was about 10 bar, several staff — including the offshore installation manager (OIM) — went to investigate in person.

HSE said personnel approached a "hazardous location even though their presence was not required to enable safe control of the situation”.

As well as the OIM, the platform’s operations supervisor and an instrument technician and others ended up “quite close” to the gas release, said HSE inspectors.

“This risked compromising key personnel in the emergency chain of command, who are trained to perform specific command and control duties,” HSE said.

HSE served an improvement notice, giving the company until 30 December to comply.

Apache North Sea said: “The safety of our people is our top priority. The incident involved a deviation from our emergency response protocols.

"To ensure compliance we are thoroughly reviewing our emergency response procedures and incorporating specific scenario-based training including similar situations in our emergency response exercises.”

Apache North Sea is now part of APA Corporation.