The number of oil and gas leaks in the UK North Sea fell to a 10-year low during the year to March 2012, although they included the first fatalities since 2007 and a two-month crisis at Total’s Elgin platform, government figures showed.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), charged with overseeing the offshore industry, said the number of major and significant leaks fell to 52 from 73 in the previous year and the number of minor hydrocarbon releases to 75 from 93.

Both figures marked the lowest levels in the last 10 years, the agency said. It did not provide data to compare the volumes of hydrocarbons leaked.

A blowout earlier this year at Total’s Elgin platform in the North Sea, which led to a two-month crisis and the loss of a massive amount of gas, has fuelled fresh scrutiny of offshore safety standards.

The report by HSE raised concerns about backlogs in the maintenance on equipment critical to safeguarding life.

With rising operating costs and lower revenues, companies have put pressure on facilities to produce more fuel in order to break even, which means reducing the number of safety checks that could interrupt production.

HSE has previously said that declines in safety checks started after a period of low oil prices in the last decade.

“Inroads to reducing the backlog of safety critical maintenance show little improvement … this requires sustained improvement,” Steve Walker, the head of HSE’s Offshore Safety Division, said in a statement.

The data showed two offshore workers died during the year.

“Although those in 2011/12 are the first ones to be recorded in our statistics since 2007, they are a tragic reminder that this is a high-risk industry and safety must remain a priority,” Walker said.

The combined rate of fatalities and injuries fell to 131 per 100,000 workers in 2011/12 from 152 in 2010/11, the second-lowest rate in the last 10 years, HSE said.

HSE seeks to halve the number of hydrocarbon releases by April 2013 from this year, Walker said.