North Sea operator pleads guilty to health and safety breaches
A company which pleaded guilty to a breach of regulations covering health and safety of workers has been fined £160,000.
Technip UK Limited admitted a breach of regulation 5 of the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessel (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court today.
In March 2009, David Stephenson was working as rigger on the diving support vessel the Wellservicer, a UK-flagged ship operated by Technip UK Limited.
The vessel had left the Netherlands and was returned to Aberdeen. She stopped three miles outside of the harbour for trials and tests which included testing of the forward bell.
On 1st April it was found that there was a problem with the buoyancy blocks attached to the dive bell. These were found to be touching the cursor frame and so preventing the frame from fully engaging with the dive bell.
At about 1745 hours, within the bell hanger area, Mr Stephenson put on a safety harness and a fall arrestor which clips onto the cursor and holds him in an upright position should he fall.
Mr Stephenson climbed onto the top of the forward dive bell and, as he started to remove the bolts, the cursor descended towards the forward dive bell from a height of about 8 to 10 feet. Mr Stephenson tried to jump off the dive bell but his safety harness locked and he was struck by the cursor and pinned down
Medical staff were summoned and he was taken by helicopter to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but was pronounced dead at 1845hrs.
An investigation by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency concluded the cursor should have been prevented from descending by the braking system on the secondary winch but became ineffective for some reason.
The cursor was a suspended load, suspended from a system that had not yet been accepted. It had not been positively secured using strops or preventer pins. Had those pins been in place, it is likely the cursor’s descent would have been arrested very soon after it had begun and the death would therefore have been prevented.
It appeared to the MCA that the hazard posed by working under a suspended load and the potential for that to descend had not been recognised and accordingly additional control measures had not been put in place.
Head of enforcement Jeremy Smart said, ‘This was a tragic incident which should never have happened and our sympathies go out to the family of Mr Stephenson.
‘This incident clearly demonstrates that proper risk assessments need to be conducted before any operation is undertaken and the appropriate safety measures put in place.
‘Safety failings like this are not acceptable in any industry.’