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Files kept on oil safety academic

Secret ‘blacklist’ file was opened on Professor Charles Woolfson who was researching health and safety on oil rigs

A secret “blacklist” file was opened on an academic researching health and safety on oil rigs, raising concerns that the operation compiling the files was active outside the construction industry.

The Information Commissioner’s Office seized data held on Professor Charles Woolfson, during their raid of the offices of the Consulting Association. The file appears to have been opened after Woolfson, then at Glasgow university, began writing on the safety of oil rigs following the Piper Alpha disaster, which killed 167 people in 1988. The file, which was being updated as late as 1996, referred readers to other intelligence held under the reference “file:OILC” The extract said: “Funding from oil industry to Glasgow university may now be cut if aboves activities continue or there may be a reduction in his activities to prevent this happening [sic].”

There is no suggestion that funding for the university was cut or that Woolfson came under pressure to stop his work. However, it is understood there were further databases held by the Consulting Association that the ICO were not permitted under their warrant to seize.

A statement from Oil & Gas UK said: “Our records offer no evidence that Oil & Gas UK has ever subscribed to the Consulting Association, or has paid anyone to maintain files on people critical of the industry; nor are we aware of such activities being carried out in the past. Given the top priority that the UK oil and gas industry places on the safety of its workforce and the open safety culture that this promotes, Oil & Gas UK does not condone such practices.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds