£280k fine after avoidable accident at oil refinery
12 January 2010
The HSE has fined Shell and two of its contractors a total of £283,332 after a contractor was paralysed from the waist down during refurbishment work at a Shell oil refinery in Cheshire.
The Court heard that the incident took place on 9th February 2007 at the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex, near Ellesmere Port. Dalprop had been contracted to refurbish a regenerator unit, which is used to convert crude oil into various chemical components.
As part of the work, the concrete lining of the regenerator unit was being removed so that it could be replaced. Scaffolding was constructed inside the unit, which provided openings to allow access to a hoist-activated waste container. The hoist was positioned directly above the interior door of the regenerator unit, and scaffolding boards were placed on top of the opening to allow workers to walk over it.
On the day of the incident, the rope became snagged on the boards, trapping the bin at the top of the hoist. It is thought that the hoist’s lower switch was knocked by a worker, which caused the rope to become slack. The rope later came loose and the 500Kg waster container fell 30 metres, striking a workman, Stephen Rizzotti, as he entered the regenerator unit. He suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken pelvis, leaving him wheel chairbound.
On the 4th January Shell UK Oil Products and Dalprop appeared in court and pleaded guilty to contravening the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations of 1998, by failing to ensure that lifting is carried out in a safe manner. Hertel U.K., which installed the scaffolding and platforms used for the project, pleaded guilty to contravening the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Shell was fined £116,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,000. Dalprop, the contractor that employed Rizzotti, and Hertel, both Shell contractors at Stanlow, were each fined £83,000 plus costs
Both Dalprop and Hertel UK stated that they had no previous convictions and deeply regretted the incident. Shell took immediate steps, following the incident, to move the hoist to a safe position and ensured that it was properly enclosed. It has also subsequently reviewed its procedures for monitoring contractors on the site.
The incident was totally avoidable. The scaffolding should have been constructed so that the lifting equipment was away from areas where people had to walk. The landing area should also have been suitably protected. This case clearly demonstrates why it's so important for companies to put the safety of their employees first.
The HSE is also using the New Year period to encourage firms to take a closer look at their health and safety plans, imploring them to make a resolution to improve their performance.