After two workers suffered injuries on North Sea platform, Repsol Sinopec slapped with £535,000 fine

Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has confirmed that Repsol Sinopec Resources UK Limited has been fined £535,000 after the uncontrolled collapse of a crane injured two workers with one sustaining – what is deemed to be – life-changing injuries during the tragic incident.

Fulmar Alpha and AD Topsides; Source: Repsol Sinopec

According to the HSE, Greig Philip Harwood, 40, and John Divers, 69, contracted employees of Enermech Limited, were injured while working on the Fulmer Alpha oil platform in the North Sea on 11 September 2017. Based on what the Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard, a 13-tonne, 45-metre-long crane boom fell to the deck without warning, with flying parts hitting both men.

Furthermore, Harwood, who was 34 at the time, suffered a fractured jaw and lacerations to his chest. As a result of this, he had to have his jaw wired together and three titanium plates fitted. Harwood, who could not eat solid food for around four months, also suffered psychological damage and was diagnosed with anxiety, trauma, and depression due to this incident.

Harwood has stopped working in the offshore industry but continues to have physical symptoms where he cannot open his mouth fully and has no feeling in his lower jaw due to nerve damage. On the other hand, Divers, who was 63, also suffered physiologically and required counselling sessions. He could not face working offshore for 12 months.

Moreover, the crane boom missed a high-pressure flare line, a fuel gas line, and the main oil line by less than half a metre. If any of these had been hit it could have resulted in a serious hydrocarbon release. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that Repsol Sinopec had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the work risks.

In addition, the firm had failed to maintain the crane braking systems and equipment in a safe condition before work started. As Repsol Sinopec Resources UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Act 1974), it was subsequently fined £535,000.

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Stephen Hargreaves, HSE principal inspector, remarked: “Greig Harwood and John Divers are lucky to be alive. This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out suitable control measures and safe working practices. A North Sea oil platform is a hazardous environment, and it was again pure luck that the crane boom, which crashed to the deck, narrowly missed high-pressure gas and oil processing equipment.

“This incident could have been avoided had the company properly planned and risk-assessed the work and adequately maintained their cranes. It is very disappointing that we are seeing failings of this nature bringing those working on North Sea installations perilously close to disaster.”

More about Fulmer A platform

The Fulmar field was developed in 1982 and consists of two bridge-linked jacket structures: the Fulmar Alpha (Fulmar A) and the Fulmar Advanced Drilling (AD) platforms. The Fulmar A platform is an eight-legged fixed steel jacket weighing approximately 12,400 Te while the Fulmar AD is a four-legged fixed steel jacket weighing approximately 1,406 Te.

The Fulmar A platform is located approximately 217 miles east of Dundee. It processes production from the Fulmar field, the Halley field (via an extended reach well), and the Auk North tie-back. Additionally, the platform provides a transportation and redelivery service for the Auk, Gannet, Clyde, Orion, and Flyndre fields through the topside oil export module. The associated gas from the Fulmar, Halley and Auk North fields is either used as fuel on the platform or is flared.

The Fulmar platform also has the facility to import gas via the Fulmar gas pipeline which runs from the St Fergus terminal. Oil is exported from the Fulmar platform via the Norpipe system for onward delivery to the Teesside Terminal. In November 2020, Repsol Sinopec received approval from the UK authorities for the preparation work scope plan related to the decommissioning of the Fulmar and Auk North installations.