Future is secure for Ineos Grangemouth but is it safe?

Ineos is looking forward to a secure future
Ineos is looking forward to a secure future

One year on from the lowest ebb in Ineos’ decade-long relationship with Grangemouth and things look to be on track for a bright future.

The company has announced its survival plan, put into action at this time last year, is on course and construction has begun on the ambitious £400 million project to import and store US shale gas on site.

Ineos managing director John McNally said Grangemouth was now moving into the premier league of petrochemical plants.

He added: “It is one of the most exciting moments in the site’s history. In 2016, we will be the first company in the UK to use US shale gas ethane and we will go from loss making to profit making overnight with all that means for jobs and investment in Scotland.”

However, the company itself does not deny since last year’s shutdown crisis scores of workers have been leaving the site to work elsewhere.

This has concerned Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty, who says reduced staffing numbers could lead to more incidents like the butane gas leak which happened at the site last month.

Mr Connarty said: “The workforce has gone down from 1400 to 800 and that is around 600 quality staff members who have left the site.

“Ineos shut down plants this year they were supposed to shut down in 2015 because they had a serious shortage of staff to operate them.

“When they say their saftey record has improved they are talking about lost time at work incidents, the reportable incidents have actually increased and health and safety have been alerted to that.

“I think there is a serious problem at the site.”

While union Unite welcomes the investment made in the plant and the apparent secure future, it too has fears over the staffing situation and safety issues.

The Falkirk Herald visited the Grangemouth site on Tuesday to put Mr Connarty’s concerns directly to the company.

An Ineos spokesman said: “Safety is very important to us and looking across the whole site, the safety performance has vastly improved and has exceeded last year’s performance.

“Recorded injuries are down two thirds on what they were this time last year.”

Standard shutdowns of plants on the site for maintenance can be some of the most dangerous times, but the company said it has coped well this year.

“This year we have undertaken three major maintenance works, one in the refinery and two in the chemical works and have seen a vast number of additional workers on site.

“We shut down the polymers plant without any injury and when we shut the KG ethelyne plant we recorded only one minor injury.”

The issue of staffing is something the company is now looking at to counteract the departures.

“We appreciate some people are looking to retire and some are looking to move on. We have shut three plants down - the G4, Benzene and GTU plants - but have had no redundancies this year.

“We have got the members of staff we need to run the site and have no problems recruiting more. Employees leave because they want to develop their career somewhere else.

“We are not understaffed.”