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North Sea rope access worker died in 23-metre fall

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An offshore services firm has been fined £100,000 after a rope access worker died when he plunged 23 metres from a North Sea platform into the sea.


Lee Bertram, 37, an employee of Bilfinger Salamis UK, was killed on 16 June 2011 when his access ropes sheared on a sharp edge.

He was suspended below the deck of the Brent Charlie platform retrieving dropped objects that could fall into the water and potentially injure people working in the sea below.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard how, having completed his work and begun his ascent, Mr Bertram stopped just below a hatch in order to open the rope protector, which shields the rope from hazardous surfaces, so he could move his jammer up the working rope and past the edge, allowing him to move through the hatch.

However, as he pushed down on his foot loop to come up through the hatch both the main and the safety rope sheared against the sharp edge and he fell to the sea, striking steelwork as he fell.

His lifejacket inflated when he landed in the water and a rescue vessel was deployed. Despite showing some signs of consciousness during the rescue he died from his injuries before reaching the onsite hospital.

Lowestoft-based Bilfinger Salamis UK pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

An investigation by HSE found the job Mr Bertram was undertaking had not been properly planned and was contrary both to industry guidelines produced by IRATA and the company’s own procedures.

Inspectors concluded that had the work been properly planned the edge of the hatch would have been identified as being sharp and the risk of rigged ropes coming into contact with it could have been prevented. Instead the ropes were rigged against the edge leading them to be severed.

“This was a tragic incident and Mr Bertram’s death could have been prevented had Billfinger Salamis planned the job correctly and put suitable safety measures in place,” said HSE inspector Katie McCabe after the hearing.

“Assessing the risks of that job properly would have identified that the potentially sharp edge presented a very clear danger to anyone suspended and working on ropes rigged against it. However, the company failed to do this so failed to take safety precautions and instead, Mr Bertram fell to his death.”

 

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