A civil engineering company has been sentenced after a worker suffered life-threatening injuries while working to decommission a former North Sea oil and gas installation.
Teesside Magistrates Court heard how on July 31 2019, the worker fell 15 metres after a platform he was working on unexpectedly collapsed during the dismantling of the Brent Bravo.
Able UK was contracted to dismantle four platforms from Shell’s (LON: SHEL) Brent field.
The accident happened during the removal of a module located on the north-west corner of the huge platform.
In planning for the removal of the component, it was noted that there were three platforms on the cellar deck of the Brent Bravo that would need to be moved to allow the module to fall safely.
But the planning team didn’t pick up that one of the platforms didn’t form part of the main structure and was attached using bolts that had corroded over time.
As such the structural integrity of the platform was affected, as was the method needed to remove it safely.
During the cutting of bracing beams, the platform unexpectedly collapsed causing one of the employees to fall 15 metres.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that Able UK failed to carry out a full structural appraisal of the platform prior to demolition.
If it had been completed it would have informed the risk assessment and method statement being used by the cutting crew at the time of the accident, ensuring the work could have been carried out safely.
Able UK, which is headquartered in Billingham, County Durham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2(1) of The Health and Safety at Work act 1974.
The company was fined £200,000, with £20,991.24 costs by Teesside Magistrates Court.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Richard Littlefair said: “When undertaking demolition work where structures are being left in a pre-weakened state, it is essential for those in control of the work to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all those involved with the work. This includes ensuring that consideration is given to the stability of structures before and during demolition work, as well as ensuring that control measures are in place to mitigate other associated health and safety risks such as work at height.”
A spokesman for Able UK said: “First and foremost Able UK Limited wish to emphasise its deepest regret with respect to the accident that occurred at Able Seaton Port on 31st July 2019. In particular we wish to apologise and continue to extend our support to the friend and colleague involved.
“Able places the health, safety and well-being of our staff at the forefront of our actions and behaviours, but on this occasion, the detailed systems and procedures that were in place failed to prevent this serious incident. Whilst this is our only prosecution in over 50 years of trading, this is of no comfort to either ourselves, or the affected parties.
“We have fully cooperated with the HSE and have undertaken a comprehensive review of our procedures, taking into account the findings of the HSE investigation. We are wholly committed to ensuring that our working practices are the subject of continuous improvement, rigorously adhered to and reflect the highest industry standards.”
Allseas’ heavy lift and pipelay vessel Pioneering Spirit removed the Brent Bravo platform from the North Sea in 2019.
The Brent field, the namesake of the global crude benchmark, lies around 115 miles northeast of Shetland and started production in 1976.
There has been a long running dispute over Shell’s plans to leave the legs of the Brent Bravo, Charlie and Delta in the North Sea.
The supermajor says the safety risk and cost of removing these giant structures would outweigh any environmental benefit.
But campaigners have demanded they be removed amid concerns about the impact that ‘attic oil’ could have marine life.
Commenting on the Able UK fine, a Shell spokesman said: “Safety is always our priority, and that of our suppliers. We were very concerned about the incident, and that a worker was seriously hurt.
“We have provided support to Able’s investigation, and continue to work closely with them to drive improvements throughout the dismantling and recycling process.”