The UK’s safety regulator has issued another warning to oil and gas firms amid an investigation into a missing worker thought to have fallen through a hole on a North Sea rig.
It is understood further inquiries into rig move operations prompted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to issue the latest alert, its second in around six months.
HSE says anyone undertaking rig moves in the UK needs to be aware of incidents of “damaged and dislodged gratings” that may present trisks of harm to offshore workers.
The investigation is focused on what happened to Jason Thomas, 50, who went missing from Valaris 121, 100 miles off Aberdeen, during a rig move in January. An improvement notice issued by the regulator in March seemed to confirm fears he fell through a hole.
In its latest update, HSE says: “Grating-systems can be damaged by adverse weather conditions such as wave impact. Damage can occur when moving rigs, including towing, moving semi-submersibles, jacking, or manoeuvring jack-up rigs.”
HSE also warns the condition of these grating systems can deteriorate over time.
The latest bulletin suggests duty holders and offshore installation owners should carry out a risk assessment of the types of grating system used on their assets, and the potential for them to be dislodged or damaged during rig moving operations, by adverse weather and sea state.
“Once you identify any hazards, you should eliminate or control the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable,” HSE says.
It also instructs operators to review their operational procedures and emergency protocols, noting that in the event of a missing person or worker overboard “those involved in rig move operations must ensure that effective emergency response arrangements are in place”.
Inquiries into what happened on Valaris 121 have found that fasteners used to secure polymer grating floor sections on the rig were not installed or positioned correctly.
An HSE spokesperson said: “We are continuing to investigate the circumstances around Jason Thomas’ disappearance and liaising with the relevant authorities. We are in contact with Jason’s family, with whom our thoughts remain.”
The regulator said it could not comment further on the ongoing investigation or any potential enforcement action, which would be for the Crown Office or Procurator Fiscal to decide.
In July energy giant BP was fined £650,000 after it was found guilty of breaching health and safety rules. It came after a maintenance worker fell to his death. Sean Anderson, 43, died in September 2014 when he fell through an open grating while working on the Unity platform about 110 miles north-east of Aberdeen.