A Carlisle risk management firm has won a contract to help protect the safety of workers in the oil and gas industry around the world.

Hughes Risk Management, based in Pacific House, in Parkhouse, was this year awarded the contract covering 40 drilling rigs and ships operated by a large offshore drilling contractor.

HRM works with a number of oil and gas companies around the world, including global company Seadrill.

The contract will involve the company’s 14 staff carrying out work to maintain the health and safety of the contractor’s fleet.

It will carry out regular visits, risk assessments and training for Seadrill as well as other drilling contractors and petrochemical companies.

“We are doing work all over the world at the moment,” said managing director and project principal William Hughes, who founded the company in 2007.

“We have been working for Seadrill and other contractors for a number of years, but they entrusted the overall management contract to us this year.

“We will review the safety cases, so they remain current with legislation.”

Mr Hughes has been working in the sector since the early 1980s and worked for one of the key investigators into the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea in 1988.

An explosion and resulting oil and gas fires on the Piper Alpha rig – which was around 120 miles north east of Aberdeen – killed 167 people. The resulting inquiry criticised owner Occidental for having inadequate safety and maintenance procedures.

Mr Hughes founded Hughes Risk Management with his wife Helen, who oversees its human resources and accounts.

It has worked across the world in countries including Brazil, the USA, Norway, Iraq, Kurdistan, Brunei and Indonesia.

The company’s work involves reviewing health and safety cases, or policies, for offshore drilling platforms and vessels, as well as work on maintaining environmental and other standards.

In addition to work in oil and gas, it also takes in sectors including renewable energy, transport, manufacturing and utilities.

When necessary it also carries out accident investigations.

These have included investigations into hydrogen explosions at a nickel refinery in Swansea and the collapse of crude oil tanks in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Hughes said although much of its work had focused on oil and gas, the company had diversified so it had not been adversely affected by recent downturns in the sector.

In particular, the company is working closely with Belgian company Jan De Null, which is carrying out work on offshore windfarms worldwide, including in the North Sea and Irish Sea.

“The business is diversifying,” said Mr Hughes.

“By the nature of our work with new safety cases we work across several industries and that is expanding as legislation grows.

“Fortunately for us we don’t see any impact from Brexit either because most of our work is based in the UK or outside the EU. The decline in oil and gas did affect us, but not in terms of the employment of people. That’s why we have gone into some other industries, like transportation and chemical.”

Over the next seven years, he hopes to take on six more staff.

The firm currently has two trainees – one doing an apprenticeship in business administration via the apprenticeship scheme run by Carlisle College – and the second following the company’s own training programme in technical safety.

As well as its international work, it has also worked with local companies, including with ECi and Full Spectrum Property Services in Carlisle, and a number of chemical companies.