Nearly two years after the death of a contractor working on an offshore oil and gas platform, a federal agency determined the incident could have been prevented if the company adhered to safety guidelines and replaced rusty flooring as preventive maintenance.
A 54-year-old production operator working the night shift for Wood Group in May 2019 went missing after the victim presumably fell through a severely corroded and deteriorating grate 45 feet above the water’s surface, the agency said. The worker’s body was never found despite search and rescue efforts.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it repeatedly flagged the rusty grates for years on the Renaissance Offshore Eugene Island platform, in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles southwest of Houma, according to its investigation report released recently.
The agency said it had urged Wood Group to replace the grates, which had corroded since the platform was built in 1975 by Shell Offshore in 240 feet of water. The company also self-reported the issue, records show. But several months before the incident, the issue wasn’t mentioned as a required repair in regular reports to the federal agency, according to the investigation.
There was a communication breakdown among supervisors leading up to the incident, the agency said, since workers had reported the grate felt spongey underfoot and needed replacing, according to the report.
At the time of the incident, the oil platform was shut down for maintenance and scheduled to begin production again the next day. There was red danger tape on the grate and about four feet off the surface to warn workers.
The production operator was conducting a monthly casing pressure check at night when the grate broke, the agency said.
“We respect the (Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s) findings and have cooperated fully with the agency on this matter,” Renaissance Offshore said in a statement. “Safety and security is of the utmost importance to Renaissance, and as such we will continue to strive for excellence and adhere to best practices. Our thoughts remain with the family of the employee.”
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s investigative panel, which included the U.S. Coast Guard, does not levy penalties directly but the case is being reviewed for potential violations.
In 2017, Wood Group was fined $9.5 million by the U.S. Department of Justice after it failed to inspect and maintain facilities but then falsified reports to the Bureau of Safety Environmental Enforcement before a deadly oil platform explosion off the coast of Grand Isle, according to the federal government.