Two Gulf of Mexico Workers Fell Through Platform Decks Within a Week
Last week, two workers fell through a hole aboard Chevron’s and Renaissance Offshore’s platform in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of these accidents, one worker was killed and the other is missing. The U.S. offshore safety body BSEE is investigating both cases to determine the cause. BSEE has established two panels to examine the incidents, and they are working with the U.S. Coast Guard’s New Orleans Investigation Unit to review the information provided by witnesses, subject matter experts, and evidence from forensic testing. BSEE also released a safety alert with recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar accidents in the future.
Renaissance Offshore Accident
The Renaissance Offshore accident occurred when a 54-year-old offshore worker fell into the water from a platform 170 miles off Vermillion Bay last Wednesday. The Coast Guard started a rescue operation that used 21 assets to search approximately 3,701 square miles over 56 hours. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard had little success finding the worker and called off the search on Friday.
“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one,” says Cmdr. Michael Wolfe, a search and rescue coordinator, involved in the search.
Other workers on the platform noticed a section of grating displaced in the upright position with the missing person’s hardhat and clipboard next to the grating in the wellbay deck. The hole the worker fell through was 93-inches long by 13-1/2 inches wide and 45 feet from the water’s surface. The wellbay deck area was taped off with red “danger” tape, but it wasn't hard barricaded to prevent personnel from falling through.
Chevron Offshore Accident
The second incident occurred on Saturday, June 1st at Chevron’s Green Canyon Block 205 Platform “A” about 150 miles southwest of New Orleans. Investigation shows that a wireline crew worked on a well that was properly barricaded. Two employees returned to the drill deck to replace the access hatch over the well. Investigators discovered that the workers inadvertently picked up the wrong hatch cover. Each employee grabbed one handle of the cover, which was the same color as the deck. Since the handle didn’t have identification, there was no way for the workers to know they were grabbing the wrong handle. The employees moved the hatch and created an open hole that was approximately 90 feet high. As a result, one of the employees stepped and fell through the hole to the deck below. The worker died due to the accident.
The Duty of Offshore Operators
“The safety of workers must be the utmost priority for offshore operators,” says Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Gulf of Mexico Regional Director Lars Herbst. It is the offshore operator's responsibility to ensure that employees have a safe work environment and that they have the proper training to prevent accidents like this from occurring. The BSEE is still conducting a thorough investigation to determine if employers contributed to the cause of these accidents.
The offshore accident attorneys at Arnold & Itkin will continue investigating these cases as authorities release more information during investigations.