Investigation launched after two Gulf of Mexico workers fall through platform decks

The U.S. offshore safety body BSEE is investigating two serious incidents aboard Chevron’s and Renaissance Offshore’s platforms in the Gulf of Mexico which led to the death of one worker with the other missing.

Incident site at EI 331 B – photo taken May 29th - Photo by BSEE
Incident site at EI 331 B – photo taken May 29th – Photo by BSEE

Incidents happened after workers fell through a grating and an open hole on the decks of the platforms on last Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.

The first incident happened when a 54-year old offshore worker fell into the water from Renaissance Offshore platform off Vermillion Bay last Wednesday.

The Coastguard had initiated a search and rescue operation, but it called off the search on Friday.

The Coast Guard used 21 assets to search approximately 3,701 square miles over 56 hours.

“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” said Cmdr. Michael Wolfe, a search and rescue mission coordinator at Sector New Orleans. “Our thoughts are with the family of the missing.”

The incident happened aboard the Renaissance Offshore’s Eugene Island 331 platform, 170 miles southwest of New Orleans.

According to BSEE, the man – a night-time production operator – was identified as missing from the platform during morning rounds last week.

“The personnel onboard noticed a section of grating displaced in the upright position with the missing person’s hardhat and clipboard next to the grating in the wellbay deck. The open hole measured approximately 93-inches long by 13-1/2 inches wide and was approximately 45 feet [13.7 meters] to the water’s surface. Preliminary information indicates that prior to the incident the wellbay deck area was taped off with red “DANGER” tape, but the area was not hard barricaded to prevent the flow of personnel.”

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Incident site at GC 205 A – photo taken June 2nd
The incident site at GC 205 A – photo taken June 2nd – Source: BSEE

The second incident occurred on Saturday, June 1, at Chevron’s Green Canyon Block 205, Platform “A” (Genesis) about 150 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Here is the description of the incident as described by BSEE: “A wireline crew had completed work on a well which was properly barricaded. At approximately 2300 hours, two employees went to replace the well access hatch cover over the well on the drill deck. Preliminary information indicates that each of the two employees inadvertently picked up the wrong hatch cover.

“Each employee grabbed one handle of the cover, which was the same color as the deck and had no well identifying information on it. This action unknowingly created an open hole; and as the employees moved the hatch, one of the employees stepped and fell through the hole to the deck below – approximately 90 feet [27.4 meters].”

“The safety of workers must be of the utmost priority for offshore operators,” said Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Gulf of Mexico Regional Director Lars Herbst.

“Both incidents last week involved workers falling through platform decks to a lower elevation or to the water’s surface. We are issuing a safety alert to the industry with recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.”

The safety alert with the BSEE recommendation can be found here (pdf)

BSEE, which has established two panels to investigate the incidents, said it work with the U.S. Coast Guard’s New Orleans Investigations Unit to review the information provided through interviews by the operators, the contract employees, witnesses and subject matter experts. Investigators will also analyze evidence from forensic testing. Each panel will consist of a team of BSEE investigators, inspectors, and engineers.

The panels will issue reports with their findings regarding the causes and make recommendations on how to strengthen existing safety measures once the investigations are completed, BSEE said.


Offshore Energy Today Staff

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