Stena Drilling convicted and fined in fatal rig accident case

Stena Drilling, a drilling contractor, has been convicted and fined over a fatal accident in which two workers died on its drilling rig in Australia three years ago.

The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria imposed a criminal penalty of $330,000 against Stena Drilling for the company’s failure to implement and maintain systems of work that were safe and without risk to health as required by law.

To remind, Stena Drilling last Thursday pleaded guilty for breaching its specific duty, as the operator of the rig to take all reasonably practicable steps to keep the workers safe.

The accident in question occurred aboard the Stena Clyde semi-submersible drilling rig during drilling operations in Commonwealth waters in the Bass Strait on August 27 2012. It resulted in the death of Stena Clyde floorman Peter Meddens and toolpusher Barry Denholm.

When delivering her decision the Magistrate said: “The profound impact on the victims’ families was in evidence in the victim impact statements.”

“I note that there were systems in place. It was their implementation on the day that gives rise to the charge. Scrupulous adherence to systems is essential. The consequence of any negligence is profound.”.
In addition, she said that “General deterrence is required, sending a message to others in the industry.”

Stuart Smith, CEO of NOPSEMA, the country’s petroleum safety watchdog said: “NOPSEMA CEO Stuart Smith said “This decision provides further evidence of NOPSEMA’s commitment to prosecuting serious breaches of the OPGGS Act in the interests of a safe and environmentally responsible Australian offshore petroleum industry.”


Call for safety reforms


Earlier this week, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) called for urgent reforms to Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry to improve safety and “stop us falling even further behind international best practice.”

In a new report Offshore OHS – Protecting Our Oil & Gas Workers, the ACTU outlined several recommendations for Occupational Health and Safety law reform.

The ACTU argues the existing OHS laws which apply to Victorian and South Australian onshore industries should be extended to cover offshore operations.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said: “Offshore safety legislation must be brought into line with national OHS standards – there is no justification for lower standards of protections for offshore workers.”

“Governments and regulatory bodies must answer the question – why is the safety of offshore oil and gas workers treated differently to their onshore colleagues?”

“Australian Unions call on all Governments to take notice of these recommendations, implement the reforms and stop us from sliding further behind the rest of the world.”