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German company fined over death of contractor in Irish tunnelling incident

14 June 2017

A German civil engineering company involved in building the Corrib gas tunnel in Western Ireland has been fined €300,000 following the death of a contractor. Wayss and Freytag Ingenieurbau AG pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety legislation in an Irish court after the death of a contractor working for Herrenknecht, the company which built the project’s boring machine.

Sruwaddacon Bay, Co. Mayo - Image: Shell
Sruwaddacon Bay, Co. Mayo - Image: Shell

According to the Irish Times, the German national died from catastrophic injuries after a pressure surge in a pipe tore a joint apart that hit him on the head. Wayss and Freytag was charged with failing to stop work on the boring machine while the contractor cleaned an oil spill in a chamber.

The tunnel is part of the Corrib gas project which will involve piping gas from subsea facilities 90km off the coast to a gas plant at Bellanaboy, near Aughoose in County Mayo. The project involves tunnelling 4.9km under Sruwaddacon Bay, a special area of conservation, with a purpose-built 500 tonne boring machine.

The prosecution withdrew charges against another contractor on the project, BAM Civil Ltd.

After the case, Brian Higgisson, assistant chief executive of the Irish Health and Safety Authority, said: “Maintenance operations can be dangerous and should always take place in a planned and controlled manner. The most important consideration is to make sure that work does not place anyone in danger, in this case the failure to follow safety procedures led to tragedy.”

Shell E&P Ireland is the operator on the project and other partners are Statoil Exploration (Ireland) and Vermilion Energy Trust.

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