HSE International

Fuel giant sentenced over offshore platform gas releases

One of the world’s largest oil and gas exploration and production companies has been fined after gas leaks on a gas platform off the Lincolnshire coast put workers’ lives in danger. 

ConocoPhillips (UK) Limited admitted serious safety failings in Lincoln Crown Court after two uncontrolled and one controlled but unexpected gas release, which occurred on the Lincolnshire Offshore Gas Gathering System (LOGGS) between 30 November and 1 December 2012.

The LOGGS Complex is situated 70 miles off the Lincolnshire coast and is made up of five interlinked platforms. As well as having its own wells, the installation collects natural gas from other gas platforms in the Southern North Sea and pipes it to the onshore Theddlethorpe gas terminal.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the releases on 30 November resulted from maintenance work to replace a gas pressure control valve on one of three gas turbines used to generate electricity for the installation.

To do this, the fuel gas pressure safety valve and a flexible hose had to be removed.

Releases of gas occurred as a result of a number of deficiencies in isolation and planning, allowing gas to come out of an open ended pipe connected to the high pressure vent system.

Breakdowns in communications across the five platforms of LOGGS also meant some workers incorrectly believed the platform was gas-free, putting the lives of up to 66 workers on board in danger if an ignition occurred.

A loss of electrical power made management of the emergency more difficult. Workers sent to investigate were put at extreme risk of death or serious injury as ignition of the gas would’ve resulted in an explosion.

It is estimated around 603kg of produced hydrocarbon gas was released into the Turbine Hall during this incident.

On 1 December, another gas release happened after batteries ran down. In this case, the isolation valve was closed in time. This stopped the gas accumulating in the turbine hall, which would have put workers at risk.

HSE served ConocoPhillips (UK) Ltd with a Prohibition Notice on 13 December 2012, for failing to control the gas releases. The company confirmed on 21 December that modifications to LOGGS incident command system had been made to prevent a repeat of these incidents.

ConocoPhillips (UK) Limited of Portman Street, London, pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion, and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995. It was fined £3,000,000 (£1m for each offence) and ordered to pay costs of £159,459.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector John Hawkins said: “There was a failure to identify the risk posed by the high-pressure vent systems when carrying out intrusive maintenance work.

“ConocoPhillips failed to put in place appropriate process isolations to isolate the high-pressure vent from the worksite.

“An assessment of the full extent of the maintenance intervention work was not carried out and the full isolations required were not identified.

“Our investigations indicate there was a deviation from following procedures fully. The underlying cause of the incident was the inadequate implementation, control and oversight of the permit to work system, and the common isolation procedure.

“It is only a matter of good fortune these incidents didn’t result in a serious, tragic incident.”

For further information and guidance on risk assessment for offshore installations visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/sheet32006.pdf PDF

Original Source: http://press.hse.gov.uk/2016/fuel-giant-sentenced-over-offshore-platform-gas-releases/?

Tougher penalties for farm health and safety breaches

Farmers or farming businesses who are found guilty of breaching health and safety rules face tougher penalties from this month.

The Sentencing Council has introduced new guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter, food safety and hygiene breaches.

They will apply to anyone over 18 who is sentenced from 1 February.

Phil Cookson, partner at agricultural law firm Roythornes Solicitors, said the new sentencing guidelines put the bar much higher when it came to fines for health and safety offences.

Fines of up to £450,000 can now be applied to companies with a turnover of up to £2m who are found to have breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Big businesses with a turnover in excess of £50m could face fines of up to £10m.

Individuals found guilty of breaching the law, face unlimited fines or the possibility of a two-year prison sentence.

Until now, there has been limited guidance for judges and magistrates in dealing with what can be complex and serious offences that do not come before the courts as frequently as some other criminal offences.

Custodial sentences were only available in certain circumstances and fines in the lower courts were limited to £20,000.

“We can expect to see some small farm businesses hit really hard if they end up on the wrong end of an health and safety prosecution,” said Mr Cookson.

“Everyone in the industry wants to see farmers’ health and safety record take a turn for the better, for obvious reasons.

“These new fine ranges should act as a wake-up call; the days of businesses cost-cutting on health and safety thinking fines will be manageable are a thing of the past.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive, in the past 10 years, almost one person a week has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work.

While not all deaths or serious injuries on farm are as a result of breaches in health and safety regulations several are.

The sentencing guidelines are the first time there will be comprehensive sentencing guidelines covering the most commonly sentenced health and safety and food safety offences in England and Wales.

For example, smaller businesses found to have breached food hygiene regulations will now face fines of up to £120,000.

As a general rule courts must following the guidelines when sentencing.

The level of fines for breaches depend on the level of culpability (low, medium, high, very high), the risk of harm and the level of potential harm, and the turnover of the offending business.

Example

A farm partnership with a turnover of £400,000.

A farmworker is seriously injured when caught under a reversing trailer in the yard.

The business is found guilty of an offence under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which requires an employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all its employees, for failing to carry out a risk assessment or devise a safe procedure for reversing vehicles where vision is restricted.

The risk of harm is found to be high, and the level of harm was found to be the highest (death or serious impairment resulting in lifelong dependence on third-party care).

The level of culpability is established as being high because the business had failed to make changes following an earlier safety incident and had ignored concerns raised by the foreman.

The business could be fined between £150,000-£350,000, with £250,000 as the starting point before other factors (mitigating for example, the business generally had a good health and safety record, or aggravating, such as the existence of recent convictions).

Original Source: http://www.fwi.co.uk/business/tougher-penalities-for-farm-health-and-safety-breaches.htm

Oxfordshire company guilty of allowing waste crime

Environment Agency prosecuted a company and an individual associated with the company for allowing illegal waste activities.

Mr David Crossley Cooke was described by the sentencing Judge, HHJ Eccles QC, as the controlling mind of Tapecrown Limited, which owns Chowle Farm , a site off the A420 near Faringdon, Oxfordshire, also known as Faringdon Business Park. The defendants appeared at Oxford Crown Court on Monday 25 January 2016.

Tapecrown Ltd was fined £20,000 with the costs to be determined at a later date. Mr Crossley Cooke was fined £4,000 with costs also to be determined at a later date.

Between April 2010 and June 2013, various waste operations took place at Faringdon Business Park. In particular, a skip hire business operated illegally from the site, and another tenant deposited large quantities of tyres.

All commercial waste activities are regulated by the Environment Agency. Whenever waste is stored or treated, the operator is required to hold an environmental permit or register for an exemption, which is reserved for low-risk waste activities only.

The Court heard that Tapecrown Ltd allowed the storage, treatment and burning of waste at the Faringdon premises without the necessary permits.

Two individuals have already been convicted of waste offences committed at Faringdon Business Park during the charge period. Mr David Ham pleaded guilty in 2011 to depositing controlled waste likely to cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health between April 2010 and March 2011, and to operating a regulated facility, a waste transfer station, without an environment permit over the same period. Mr Wayne Clarke pleaded guilty in December 2012 to operating a regulated facility, recovering metal components from wheels of vehicles and storing or depositing the tyres, without an environment permit between October 2011 and January 2012.

In July 2013 Mr Ham pleaded guilty to further offences of failing to comply with a court order to remove waste from the site and of keeping controlled waste likely to cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health between June 2012 and January 2013.

Tapecrown Ltd knowingly permitted these waste crimes to be carried out at Faringdon Business Park. The waste operations occurred on the company’s land over a prolonged period of time, April 2010 to June 2013. The Environment Agency wrote to the company repeatedly and advised as to what had been witnessed on site and reported by others. David Crossley Cooke was present during many of the visits made by Environment Agency officers; and lives only a few hundred metres away from the site.

Jack Knight of the Environment Agency said:

It is very disappointing that Mr Crossley Cooke continued to allow the operation of an illegal site despite having an understanding of his responsibilities.

The net is closing in on people who think they can make easy money undercutting legitimate waste businesses by putting the local environment at risk. We are constantly gathering information on illegal waste sites, criminal activities and environmental crime in Oxfordshire and across the south east.

We are taking a zero tolerance approach against offenders. In cases like this where individuals consistently operate illegally, we have absolutely no hesitation in prosecuting them as we want to make sure that waste crime doesn’t pay.

This extends to landowners and their agents who fail to take steps to prevent such offences once they are made aware of them.

To report any illegal dumping or waste crime please call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

Original Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oxfordshire-company-guilty-of-allowing-waste-crime?utm_content=buffer9e54d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Mesothelioma lawyer secures financial settlement for client

Bryan Harvey, a former carpenter with mesothelioma settled his claim against his former employers after contracting mesothelioma.

Mr Harvey was in his late 50s when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

Before the diagnosis Mr Harvey was healthy and fit, and intended to continue working into his 70s.

Mr Harvey was exposed to asbestos whilst working as a carpenter in Kent from the mid to late 70s.

Even though extensive information about the dangers of asbestos was available at the time, he was frequently required to cut up asbestos sheets which caused him to be exposed to clouds of asbestos dust.

Mr Harvey was not given any suitable protection against asbestos exposure. Towards the end of his employment, a non-asbestos alternative was available but his employers never used this.

The business for which Mr Harvey worked was no longer trading by the time he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mr Harvey was represented by mesothelioma lawyer Vijay Ganapathy who, carried out investigations at HM Revenue and Customs, where he discovered that the business was a partnership rather than a limited company.

In order to start Court proceedings, it was necessary to track down the individual partners who employed Mr Harvey in the 70s.  Despite the challenges associated with this, Vijay was able to locate them and identify the company that provided insurance at the relevant time.

Mr Harvey’s claim was settled for more than £250,000.

Mesothelioma lawyer Vijay Ganapathy said:

“As with many of the mesothelioma claims we handle it can be necessary to carry out extensive research to determine against whom the claim should be advanced.

“I am therefore pleased we were able to overcome these hurdles in Bryan’s case which meant that he and his family were provided with some measure of financial security.”

Original Source: https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/News-2016/February-2016/Former-carpenter-settles-mesothelioma-claim

Asbestos – Royal Navy veteran seeking cancer compensation

A Royal Navy veteran who is living with incurable cancer says he is waiting to hear if he will get any compensation.

Fred Minall, 74, of Northampton, said he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October after working with asbestos as a naval engineer from 1958 to 1963.

He is campaigning to get compensation in line with payouts he says civilian employees are entitled to.

Mark Lancaster, defence minister, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was “reviewing the options”.

Cut-off date

Mr Minall said his diagnosis was related his service on HMS Trafalgar, where asbestos was used to insulate pipes.

He said he was not entitled to compensation because he was diagnosed before a cut-off date of 16 December 2015.

“The asbestos had to be removed and replaced by hand and we were covered head-to-foot in the white asbestos powder – we’d get it in our eyes and up our noses,” he said. “I’ve got severe back pain, chest pain and feel pretty grotty all the time.

“What dates have got to do with it is beyond my comprehension, and they’ve got to step forward and pay us proper compensation in line with our civilian counterparts.”

Mr Minall said he had about two months to live and wanted his three sons to benefit from any compensation payment.

Northampton South MP David Mackintosh has backed his case and told the House of Commons it was “an anomaly that we need to look at”.

In a statement issued by the MoD, Mr Lancaster said: “Whether [compensation] should be applied to this group is a complex issue that has been the subject of much discussion.”

Original Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-35454429

Border tensions rumble over ageing Belgian nuclear reactors

Decision to restart 40-year-old nuclear reactors places strain on relations between European neighbours, as Germans and Dutch voice concerns.

Belgium’s decision to restart two 40-year-old nuclear reactors is putting pressure on northern Europe’s political fault lines, with Germany announcing that it would send experts to inspect the plants.

Concerns have been stoked by the discovery of thousands of defects in the reactors’ pressure vessels, a fire, and one unresolved sabotage incident at the plants, which also border Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

In December, the Doel 3 reactor on the Dutch border had to be turned off just one week after it was switched back on, following repairs that lasted 21 months, due to a water leaking on a (non-nuclear) generator.

Two nearby cities, Maastricht in the Netherlands and Aachen in Germany, are said to be considering legal action to force plant safety – or closure, and on Tuesday the German environment minister waded into the row.

Barbara Hendricks said that she would accept the nuclear status quo “for now”, after Jan Jambon, the Belgian interior minister, refused her request for a joint environmental risk assessment at a meeting in Brussels. But she immediately took to twitter to express German frustrations.

“A transboundary assessment of the environmental impact should not only be mandatory when it comes to new builds of plants but also when the lifetime of aging nuclear power plants is being extended,” Hendricks tweeted.

A German press statement spoke of “significant deviations” from required safety procedures at the Tihange 2 plant on the Dutch border, and Doel 3, which is also close to Germany and Luxembourg.

Belgium depends on seven nuclear reactors for around 60% of its electricity, although it says it will phase these out by 2025.

After the Fukushima accident in Japan, Germany began mothballing its entire nuclear fleet, but some of its citizens fear they could still be at risk from nuclear accidents across the border with Belgium.

One of them, Simon Sybertz, a student in Aachen, said that fears among local people in the city were growing. “People are starting to realise whats happening across the border,” he said. “They’re scared because nobody is really prepared for something happening in Tihange. We don’t even have iodine. I want the Belgian government to shut the reactor.”

More than 825,000 people have signed an Avaaz petition calling for the two reactors to be mothballed. German government sources say that Hendricks told Jambon that if Brussels was serious about shutting its reactors, it should start now.

“We didn’t get the impression that the Belgians really have a plan to phase out nuclear within a fixed time schedule,” one source at Tuesday’s meeting told the Guardian.

European nuclear industry groups insist that plant safety is a strictly national affair under EU law, and say that EU stress tests of three Belgian nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster – as well as Belgium’s more recent examinations of its reactors – should give confidence in plant safety.

Jean-Pol Poncelet, the director general of Foratom, Europe’s nuclear trade association, said that Belgian reactors were “considered safe not just by the Belgian authorities but by their partners in the EU”.

“It is amazing to see that there are complaints from theNetherlands,” he said. “The Dutch are operating a reactor in Borssele which is expected to run longer than the Belgian ones – with an extension of 60 years!”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/03/border-tensions-rumble-over-aging-belgian-nuclear-reactors

RoSPA welcomes new corporate manslaughter sentencing rules

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has welcomed new sentencing guidelines for criminal health and safety and corporate manslaughter cases that will see punishments increased for more serious offenders.

From today (Monday, February 1) new Sentencing Council guidelines will come into force to ensure health and safety breaches are fairly and proportionately punished, and will help to deter potential future offences.

Before today, guidance for judges and magistrates has been limited for offences that can be extremely complex and serious.

RoSPA has welcomed the changes, which will penalise companies that ignore health and safety, or do not follow procedures in order to save money. They will also bring penalties for health and safety offences into line with those for environmental and other corporate offences.

Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s occupational safety and health policy adviser, said: “These new guidelines will mean that, in some cases, offenders will receive larger penalties – particularly larger organisations that commit serious offences.

“Unfortunately, you occasionally hear of organisations deliberately breaking the law to cut corners with health and safety. It is our hope that the promise of harsher penalties will deter organisations from taking such risks with their employees’ lives in the future.”

The Sentencing Council says that increased penalties for serious offending have been introduced because, in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes committed.

Now, as well as the severity of the offence, the culpability and means of the employer will also be assessed before fines are handed down.

Turnover is used to identify the starting point for a fine, but the guidelines also require the court to review and adjust the fine if necessary, taking into account factors such as profit margin, impact on employees, or the impact on the organisation’s ability to improve conditions. This means sentences will always be tailored to the offender’s specific circumstances.

The guidelines also include a range of mitigating factors which allow for voluntary, positive action to remedy a failure on the part of offenders to be reflected in sentences.

Original Source: http://www.rospa.com/media-centre/press-office/press-releases/detail/?id=1432

Building surveyor fined £30,000 for health and safety breaches that resulted in two construction workers being exposed to asbestos

Seamus Kelly, a joiner, and his colleague Alan Tweed, were exposed to asbestos while replacing doors in the service ducts beneath Holywell Hospital, Antrim in 2013.

In addition to being the appointed project managers for the removal of asbestos containing materials from the underground service ducts, Watts also organised and conducted an asbestos survey for these ducts.

The information contained in the survey was then used to develop illustrative site plans showing areas where asbestos was present and areas where it had been identified as having been removed. Watts then supplied these plans to a construction subcontractor whose role was to remove and replace doors and to carry out other building work in the ducts.

But an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) found that the survey fell far below the required standards. Among its shortcomings, asbestos was discovered in poor condition in numerous areas throughout the ducts where the Watts plans illustrated there was no asbestos.

Speaking after sentencing at Antrim Crown Court, HSENI inspector Jonathan Knox said: “Safety advisors, project administrators and asbestos surveyors perform a vital role in the construction industry. The information they provide is relied upon by many others to keep workers safe throughout a construction project.

“Organisations, such as the Health Trust in this case, expect to be able to rely on the opinions of their experts to assist in the prevention of exposure to asbestos fibres.

“This case should act as a reminder to advisors and surveyors involved in construction projects that measures must be taken, prior to the start of any works, to ensure that the correct type of asbestos survey is completed and carried out with patience, in a thorough and systematic manner.”

Original Source: http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/surveyor-fined-for-error-strewn-asbestos-survey?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Claxton Engineering crush deaths: Charges brought by HSE

A director and three companies have been charged with safety offences after four men were crushed to death on a building site five years ago.

Daniel Hazelton, 30, his brother Thomas Hazelton, 26, Adam Taylor, 28, and Peter Johnson, 42, died in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on 21 January 2011.

A 13-tonne steel structure collapsed on them at Claxton Engineering.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said all defendants had been summoned to appear before magistrates next week.

The Hazelton brothers and Mr Johnson were from Stanton near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and Mr Taylor was from nearby Rickinghall.

The defendants are:

  • Claxton Engineering Services Ltd of Ferry Road, Norwich, which is charged under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • Encompass Project Management Ltd, of Old Market Street, Thetford, also charged under Section 3 of the act
  • David Groucott, Director of Encompass Project Management Ltd, is charged under Section 37
  • Hazegood Construction Ltd, of Bury Road, Stowmarket, Suffolk, faces charges under Sections 2 and 3

They are due to appear before Great Yarmouth magistrates on 2 February.

Original Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-35411030

Balfour Beatty fined £1million for road worker fatality

Balfour Beatty has been fined £1 million after a road worker was killed whilst repairing a central reservation barrier that had been damaged in a road traffic collision.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how, on 1 October 2012, a team was sent out by Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited to install temporary traffic management in order to repair barriers on the A2.

The crew were trying to remove the footings of a post that had snapped off, using a lorry mounted crane. The lorry mounted crane slipped from the concrete footing, and swung back towards the barrier, hitting the worker on the head. Larry Newman, aged 37, sustained severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited, of Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, was fined a total of £1million, and ordered to pay £14,977 in costs after pleading guilty to safety offences.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said: “This was an entirely preventable incident that could have been averted by simply creating and implementing a safe system of work. If a suitably sized excavator had been used to remove the footing mechanically it would have prevented this tragic loss of life completely.

“Employers have a responsibility to create safe systems of work for hazardous activities that their workers may be undertaking. The workers should be trained in safe systems of working and adequately supervised. Safety needs to be proactively managed and not just left to chance.”

Original Source: http://highwaysmagazine.co.uk/1m-fine-for-balfour-beatty-after-road-worker-killed/