The Offshore Alliance, a joint venture by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and Maritime Union of Australia, has slammed the lack of workplace safety in the Western Australian offshore oil and gas industry following a serious accident leading to a worker being badly burned by scalding steam.
The incident, which occurred on 7 August on Jadestone’s Montara Venture floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO), saw a marine engineer and Alliance member seriously injured when he was directed by a supervisor onboard to install new pipework on the portside boiler.
The Offshore Alliance understands the worker had voiced his concerns with the supervisor, saying it was a requirement to have another engineer help with the task, as the job required two people to be done safely.
The Offshore Alliance is also concerned the work was being rushed, as the boiler had not cooled sufficiently. It is correct practice to let a boiler of this type cool for at least 12 hours before work of this kind can commence on it.
The supervisor insisted the task was critical and had to be done immediately.
While undertaking the inspection and repair, pressurised boiling water and steam was released, resulting in severe burns to about 30 per cent of the worker’s upper torso.
AWU National Secretary Dan Walton says the incident is another case where offshore oil and gas industry management is willing to cut corners, at the expense of safety, and that workers are under pressure to comply.
“It’s an increasing trend amongst oil and gas employers for safe work practices to be ignored in favour of a focus on production, and this is always at the expense of workers. It’s absolutely unacceptable for an employer to put a worker in danger, and even worse when safety concerns are waved off after being raised,” Mr Walton says.
“Jadestone employees are also under enormous stress and believe that there is little or no job security.
“This significantly undermines their ability to refuse to undertake work directed by management, even when they believe such work is extremely unsafe.”
To make matters much worse, Jadestone’s subsequent treatment of the badly injured worker was woeful. The worker was given a sedative by the onboard medic, and after a 36 hour wait, was placed unaccompanied on a helicopter, and flown to Truscott – a remote air strip with no medical services.
He was left there for six hours, with no medical attention, then boarded a flight to Perth where he attended the burns unit.
“The treatment of the worker leading up to the accident and the lack of proper medical attention he received after it are shameful,” Mr Walton says.
The Offshore Alliance lodged a formal OHS complaint against Jadestone Energy with the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority on the day of the incident. It is believed NOPSEMA is taking the matter seriously with investigations ongoing.
Since this incident another worker has been badly injured and medevaced off the Jadestone’s Montara Venture FPSO. The incident occurred at the end of August when the worker was struck by a 100kg steel beam.
In late July two workers were injured on Woodside’s Ngujima-Yin oil vessel when a 500kg load fell pinning one worker’s leg and knocking out another. It is understood the lifting appliance had unapproved modifications.
These incidents occurred just a few weeks after terrifying video emerged of an offshore lift that went badly wrong off the WA coast in early July. Three workers narrowly avoided being crushed when a 200-tonne platform began swinging out of control as it was lifted by a crane. The offshore technicians were dismantling a Santos oil rig off Varanus Island on the WA coast on 5 July.