A company caught up in a “dangerous” Buchan Alpha decommissioning incident has been given little more than a “slap on the wrist” by the HSE, according to an offshore union.
Unite said a lack of “serious action” had been taken by the regulator over the incident last year in waters off Shetland.
Dramatic video emerged in September of a worker, who was cutting into a structure he was standing on with a blowtorch, trying to run to safety when the structure became off-balance in the water.
The footage, shot a night, cut out shortly afterwards, and prompted RMT and Unite to condemn the job as “a cowboy approach to a major scope of work” at Dales Voe.
Ocean Kinetics, the firm responsible for the work, said it has not been issued with any improvement or prohibition notices for the incident.
The Health and Safety Executive has dealt the firm with a notice of contravention letter, a document accompanied with a fine per hour of an inspector’s time, setting out “material breaches” in health and safety law.
Details of the fine were not shared, but HSE said Ocean Kinetics had rectified the issues it addressed.
John Boland, regional organiser of the Unite union, said: “The outcome of the HSE investigation is highly disappointing, but not surprising.
“We have workers running for their lives and Ocean Kinetics gets a slap on the wrist.
“It shows what we have said for a long time, that the HSE is a paper tiger with no bite, and it takes fatalities for serious action to be taken.”
In September, Ocean Kinetics said that while the footage “appears dramatic”, the outcome was considered a possibility and “safely carried out”.
Managing director John Henderson said HSE was rightly obliged to carry out an investigation which, now completed, resulted in no safety notices.
He said: “We provided comprehensive feedback on practicable remedial actions proactively identified and implemented prior to HSE’s involvement, and these methods will be carried through to any future work of a similar nature.
“The health and safety of our employees and the wider public continues to be an absolute priority in the way we run our business.”
‘More than a little disingenuous’
Ocean Kinetics said last year that no action had been taken against any employees for the footage being leaked.
Jake Molloy, regional organiser of the RMT union, highlighted that, as Ocean Kinetics had rectified the issues, HSE had no scope to issue safety notices.
However he also argued that the company’s claim of safety as a “priority” was “more than a little disingenuous”.
“Perhaps this is the case now, with lessons learned, but the fact that laws were breached suggests the health and safety of employees wasn’t the priority at the time of this event”, Mr Molloy said.
The union boss also said the video evidences that decommissioning of a floating structure on the water is a “non-starter” and must be done on a drydock.
The Buchan Alpha oil rig was taken to the quay at Dales Voe, Lerwick, for decommissioning in 2017.
However, the hull section, with pontoons, broke away from its berth during a storm in November 2019, with Ocean Kinetics subsequently hired to retrieve it.
It said the procedure, which involved a crane taking the weight on a brace while cutting took place, was “considered the safest approach” due to the way the structure was lying on the seabed.
HSE said Ocean Kinetics breached the Health and Safety at Work Act and Construction regulations from 2015 over the incident, specifically in relation to de-ballasting.
A spokesperson said: “HSE has completed its investigation into this incident. Material breaches of health and safety law were identified and enforcement action taken against Ocean Kinetics Limited for their failures in the form of a notification of contravention letter.”