Bilfinger Salamis fined £100,000 over accidental death of Brent oil platform worker

Bilfinger Salamis logoBy DARA BUTTERFIELD

Bilfinger Salamis UK has been fined £100,000 after admitting breaching regulations in a North Sea accident which led to the death of worker Lee Bertram, 37.

Bertram, from Newcastle, fell  75-feet to his death in 2011 when the ropes he was using on Shell’s Brent Charlie platform sheared on the sharp edge of a hatch. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that the job Mr Bertram was not properly planned and was contrary to both industry guidelines and the company’s own procedures.

Katie McCabe, HSE Inspector,  said: “This was a tragic incident and Mr Bertram’s death could have been prevented had Bilfinger Salamis planned the job correctly and put suitable safety measures in place.

“Assessing the risks of that job properly would have identified that the potentially sharp edge presented a very clear danger to anyone suspended and working on ropes rigged against it.

“However, the company failed to do this so failed to take safety precautions and instead, Mr Bertram fell to his death.”

Mr Bertram’s mother said the fine imposed was “nothing” compared to her son’s life.

Speaking from the family home in Walker, she said: “We are shocked at the fine. We have been waiting three and a half years for this and £100,000 for a life is nothing.”

At the fatal accident inquiry at Aberdeen sheriff court, Sheriff Graeme Napier said that he had taken into account the company’s good safety record since the incident in assessing the penalty. He said: “I have some familiarity with this environment having at one stage in my career specialised in dealing with this type of case.

“I have visited the Brent field on a number of occasions. I do not underestimate the harshness of the environment in which individuals such as Lee Bertram work.

“They are entitled to look to their employers and those responsible for designing their work to place safety of the staff at the top of their list of priorities.”

A spokesperson for Bilfinger Salamis UK said: “Following the incident we openly communicated with the industry, shared our initial findings, and have subsequently been working with the authorities to fully understand the circumstances of the incident.”

Bilfinger admitted to breaching regulation four of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which states that every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe.

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