Prosecutions

Shell fined £1m after offshore worker’s feet crushed

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Oil giant Shell has been fined more than £1m after an offshore worker's feet were crushed on a gangway.


Martin Hill, then 63, got his feet trapped under a sliding step while working in the early hours on an oil rig in the North Sea in October 2017.

Ampelmann Operations had designed and owned the gangway. Both companies were sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court after admitting health and safety failings.

Hill was part of a group of maintenance workers being transferred on the Kroonborg support vessel towards Shell’s Galleon PG offshore gas rig when the incident happened, the court heard.

The damaged boot Mr Hill had been wearing at the time of the incident. Photograph: HSE

The transfer went ahead in conditions of high wind and heavy seas, when it should not have done.

As Mr Hill then made his way along gangway from the support vessel towards the rig, he did so in the pre-sunrise gloom. Although there was some artificial lighting, there was not enough of it in the right places.

Both of his feet got trapped as the gangway telescoped together. He had to be airlifted to hospital and narrowly avoided having both of his feet amputated.

Now 68, Mr Hill said: “My feet got very badly crushed. Most of the bones in my feet were broken and most of the skin was pulled off.

“I am not 100 per cent now, my feet will play up if I try and do DIY when there are steps or ladders involved, or if I go for a reasonable walk. I like to think it didn’t affect me mentally but it did – I haven’t returned to offshore work after the incident.”

HSE found that Ampelmann had failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risk of people’s feet being trapped at the sliding step. The judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson said that: “There were some basic errors which persisted over a long time.”

He added that Shell’s instructions to staff conducting transfers “were inconsistent and confusing and spread across several documents” and were not understood by those operating the gangway transfer system. Shell also failed to ensure that lighting adhered to HSE guidance.

Shell U.K. Limited, of Lambeth, London, was fined £1,031,250 for breaching Section 3(1) of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. 

Ampelmann Operations (UK), of Waterloo Quay, Aberdeen, was fined £206,250 for breaching Section 3(1) of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. 

Investigating HSE inspector John Hawkins said: “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.”

“The sentences passed reflect the importance of specialist companies making sure that all aspects of the equipment they design and deploy are in fact safe, rather than just assumed to be safe.”

 

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