Two Deaths: Stena Drilling Australia Pleads Guilty

Stena Clyde

Published Aug 30, 2015 5:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

Stena Drilling Australia has pleaded guilty to charges relating to the death of two drillers in Bass Strait on August 27, 2012.

The incident occurred during drilling operations and resulted in the death of Stena Clyde floorman Peter Meddens and toolpusher Barry Denholm. The men were operating heavy machinery when part of a drill dislodged and hit one in the chest and face, killing him instantly. The other man received a blunt trauma to his body.

The charge heard in the Magistrates Court of Victoria, last week, relate to Stena Drilling Australia breaching its duty as the operator to take all reasonably practicable steps to implement and maintain systems of work that were safe and without risk to health.

Australia’s offshore safety regulator, NOPSEMA, released a statement saying it had collected extensive evidence, tested the equipment involved in the accident and interviewed members of the workforce who were on the Stena Clyde at the time of the accident. Industry experts were also engaged to provide expert opinion on the equipment that was involved and the static and dynamic forces applied to the equipment.

NOPSEMA’s investigation identified that senior management on the Stena Clyde failed to apply the Stena management of change principles in failing to carry out a new risk assessment and toolbox talk after altering the original plan of works. Further, Stena Drilling conceded that senior members of the drilling crew failed to ensure that a revised risk assessment had been carried out prior to implementing the new plan.

NOPSEMA CEO Stuart Smith said, “This prosecution has reinforced the requirement for an appropriate risk assessment system to be implemented for all stages of work. Workers involved should have an opportunity to contribute to this assessment including consideration of factors such as stored energy, equipment design limits and impact of external conditions.

“Communication is a key part of any work offshore and supervisors should verify that all workers involved in any task understand their role and any associated risks.

“All equipment utilised in planned work should be fit for purpose and in good working order. If the equipment is not working correctly, a reassessment of the risks associated with the work or task should be conducted.”

The Maritime Union of Australia has criticized NOPSEMA for taking so long conducting its investigation.

The matter is now listed for sentencing on September 3, 2015.