Wood Group PSN faces a potential fine of hundreds of thousands of pounds after being accused of ‘a disregard for the safety of workers’ following a fatal explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Three Filipino workers died and three more were seriously injured after the Black Elk-operated West Delta rig explosion a year ago, when vapours ignited during welding work on the platform.
The Aberdeen-based energy services giant was one of the contractors on the platform, managing production equipment and operations. It, along with other contractors involved in the project, now faces a heavy fine for its role in the incident.
A report by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement found Wood Group PSN’s staff were guilty of 11 safety breaches, including failing to protect staff against a hydrocarbon build-up or fire hazards during work on the rig.
“The WGPSN operators failed to maintain adequate control over the WD 32 complex,” the report found.
“WGPSN operators failed to take an active role in all phases of the construction projects and to maintain effective communication with all workers onboard the WD 32 complex.”
The report said welding work on a pipe flange ignited a wet oil tank because the pipe had not been cleared of flammable vapour. It in turn connected to two further tanks by a ventilation line, allowing the blast to spread from one to the next in a chain reaction inside two seconds.
Two of the tanks were blown into the sea by the force of the blast, while a third hit off the platform crane before landing back on the platform. Spilled oil ignited on the surface of the rig, and also spilled into the sea forming a half-mile long oil sheen.
Ellroy Corporal was killed almost immediately, while Jerome Malagapo died of injuries caused by the blast. A third worker, Avelino Tajonera, died of his injuries at Baton Rouge Hospital.
Gas detectors issued to workers, which should have warned the pipe was not safe, were not working.
“One detector’s battery did not last more than half a day and the second detector alarmed constantly,” the report found.
“The employees brought these issues and concerns to the attention of the supervisor and were subsequently told by him not to worry about the detectors.”
A spokesman for the BSEE told Energy Voice that, although Black Elk were operators, changes in law post-Deepwater Horizon allowed it to take action against contractors involved in incidents as well.
Companies face a fine of up to $40,000 per day per incident. A decision on what penalty Wood Group PSN would face would be made ‘within the next couple of weeks’, he said.
The head of the BSEE, Brian Salerno, said the deaths highlighted the grave consequences of working offshore if safety rules are not followed.
“As reflected in the investigation report prepared by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Panel, these deaths were caused by a number of decisions, actions and failures by Black Elk and contractors retained by Black Elk while conducting construction operations,” he said.
“These failures reflect a disregard for the safety of workers on the platform and are the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making in all offshore oil and gas operations.”
A spokeswoman for Wood Group said it was studying the BSEE report.
“We have received BSEE’s report and are currently reviewing it,” she said.
“Safety is our number one priority at Wood Group, and we will work with BSEE to ensure its safety procedures and recommendations are implemented.”