An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has highlighted significant safety failings by an international fuel company.
Lincoln Crown Court fined the offshore giant £3,000,000 and ordered to pay costs of £159,459 after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995.
The company operates 5 interlinked platforms with wells off the coast of Lincolnshire . Additionally, the installation collects natural gas from other platforms in the Southern North Sea and then pipes it to an onshore terminal.
The HSE revealed that gas leaks on an offshore platform put employee’s lives at risk.
The court was told that in November 2012 maintenance work was carried out to gas turbines which were used to generate electricity. The work involved removing the pressure safety valve and a flexible hose.
The HSE reported that 603kg of produced hydrocarbon gas was released during this procedure putting workers at extreme risk.
The court heard that poor planning and communication was central to this failure.
After the case was heard, John Hawkins from the HSE said:“There was a failure to identify the risk posed by the high-pressure vent systems when carrying out intrusive maintenance work. “
“[The company] failed to put in place appropriate process isolations to isolate the high-pressure vent from the worksite.”
“An assessment of the full extent of the maintenance intervention work was not carried out and the full isolations required were not identified.”
“Our investigations indicate there was a deviation from following procedures fully. The underlying cause of the incident was the inadequate implementation, control and oversight of the permit to work system, and the common isolation procedure.”
“It is only a matter of good fortune these incidents didn’t result in a serious, tragic incident.”