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Shell Fined $1.2M After Worker's Feet Were Crushed in Gangway Accident

Kroonborg and her walk-to-work gangway in operation at a Shell platform (Shell)
Kroonborg and her walk-to-work gangway in operation at a Shell platform (Shell)

Published Dec 31, 2023 11:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Energy giant Shell and offshore access provider Ampelmann have been fined $1.5 million after the feet of a worker were crushed while walking along a gangway during a transfer in the North Sea.

The feet of worker Martin Hill were crushed while walking along a gangway during a transfer from a supply ship to a gas rig on October 17, 2017. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced that the two companies pleaded guilty to breaching offshore safety requirements leading to the incident.

Hill, then 63, was part of a maintenance team working for Shell. The men were being transferred from an offshore supply vessel to the company’s Galleon PG offshore gas rig, located more than 30 nm off the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coasts. The ship was fitted with a walk-to-work motion compensated gangway to carry workers to and fro. The gangway had been designed and constructed by Ampelmann, a firm specializing in WTW transfer systems.

The weather conditions were unfavorable, with high wind and heavy seas, but the companies allowed it to proceed. The transfer took place just before dawn, using what the authorities deemed insufficient lighting.

Hill was the last man on the transfer list and while walking along the gangway, the gap between the ship and the rig reduced, causing the booms to telescope together. The approaching step ran over the safety boots of both his feet, trapping them under the step and inflicting serious injuries. The accident almost caused both feet to be amputated.

In its investigation, HSE found that people using the Ampelmann-designed and owned gangway were not protected enough from the risks created by the moving step. 

“Walk to work gangways have an important contribution to make towards providing reliable and safe access, but their design and operation must ensure workers are protected from the risk of needless entrapment and serious injury,” said John Hawkins, HSE inspector.

He added that to have workers exposed to a risk of injury when required to do something as basic as walking to work over a gangway does not reflect the standards expected.

HSE prosecuted Shell and Ampelmann following the incident. The two companies admitted guilt and were fined $1.2 million and $260,000 respectively.