Unions want answers on workers’ deaths. Slam ‘ineffective’ watchdog

Australian offshore safety watchdog NOPSEMA has informed that it has completed investigation into an explosion which lead to the deaths of two workers aboard an offshore rig in 2012, but unions question the regulators effectiveness and seek answers.

NOPSEMA, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, yesterday said that “legal proceedings have commenced through the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria with the assistance of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) for specific breaches of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.”

To remind, the incident occurred on the Stena Clyde semi-submersible drilling rig in the Bass Strait, off the coast of Victoria, Australia on 27 August 2012.

The workers were fatally injured during drilling operations being carried out by Stena Drilling (Australia) Pty Ltd, on behalf of Origin Energy, on a well in the Otway Basin in the Bass Strait.

However, Australian workers unions believe that the investigation has taken too long, and do not believe that NOPSEMA can do its job properly as it is “too close to the industry to act as an effective regulator”

Related: Stena Clyde Incident: Offshore Workers Demand Improved OHS Laws

In a statement on its website the Maritime Union of Australia says that even after two years from the incident have passed “still no action has been taken over long-standing safety concerns.”

Unions are now calling on the Federal Government to launch a review into the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA), which is responsible for the investigation into the deaths.

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said two years was far too long for the families of those killed on the Stena Clyde to wait for answers.

“Our highest priority is to ensure workers go home the same way they arrive – alive and healthy,” Crumlin said

“The MUA has long held concerns that NOPSEMA does not adequately work with unions to prevent safety breaches.

“This needs to change and both NOPSEMA and the Abbott Government must commit to involving unions in workplace safety matters.”

Related: Two Men Killed in Rig Accident Offshore Australia

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said the families of Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm are still waiting for answers two years after they got “the terrible news that they would never see their loved ones again.”

“The ACTU is concerned NOPSEMA is too close to the industry to act as an effective regulator,” Borowick said.

“The fact that there has been no prosecution and the report into the investigation has not been released two years after these tragic and avoidable deaths gives weight to this concern.

“Without a full and independent investigation into the tragedy we cannot ensure other workers will not be exposed to similar dangers.”

Borowick said union officials were blocked from talking to workers and inspecting the worksite after the Stena Clyde deaths, while NOPSEMA largely excludes unions from providing valuable input into safety concerns.

“These are safety standards that cover all other Australian workers under OHS laws – yet offshore workers are denied these important protections.”

Related: NOPSEMA becomes sole regulator for oil & gas activities in Australia

AWU National Secretary Scott McDine said to end up two years on from a severe tragedy with no action on safety reform is simply not good enough.

Unions are calling for the release of NOPSEMA’s investigation into the Stena Clyde deaths and for the Australian Government to urgently amend offshore safety legislation to give offshore workers the same protections as other Australian workers.

“Offshore safety legislation must be brought into line with national OHS standards – there is no justification for lower standards of protections for offshore workers,” Borowick said.

In a separate statement, NOPSEMA said it would “communicate lessons learnt with duty holders with the wider community,” upon conclusion of the legal proceedings.

August 27, 2014

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