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Engineering company fined after worker is seriously injured

30 July 2013

A West Lothian engineering firm has been sentenced for safety failings after an employee suffered life-threatening injuries when he was hit by a 400kg metal ring being propelled toward him under high pressure.

Kenneth Hunter, 33, a local man, was working at Oil States Klaper Ltd at its premises in Whitburn Road, Bathgate when the incident happened on 25 May 2011.

Livingston Sheriff Court was told today (26 July) that Mr Hunter was working on an annular, a type of blow out prevention (BOP) device used in the oil and gas industry to prevent pressure encountered during oil well drilling from breaching oil rig platforms.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, said Mr Hunter stood on the BOP some two and a half metres above the ground in order to tighten jacking bolts. As he did, there was a loud bang and a locking ring weighing 400kg shot up with force, hitting him in the face and upper body and throwing him into the air. Mr Hunter landed on the floor and the ring fell on top of his legs.

He was taken to hospital with life threatening injuries both to his face and chest. He underwent surgery to repair severe fractures to his face and collarbone. Mr Hunter has been left with permanent scarring to his face and was only able to return to work with the company in early 2013.

HSE's investigation revealed that Oil States Klaper Ltd had failed to provide an adequate safe system of work for the removal of the locking rings or ensure suitable measures were taken to prevent or control articles being ejected. The firm had also failed to ensure workers were adequately supervised while carrying out pressure testing.

The court heard that the company had failed to fully heed previous written advice from a number of HM Inspectors and Specialist HSE Inspectors regarding the hazardous nature of pressure testing.

Oil States Klaper Ltd of Birniehill, Whitburn Road, Bathgate, West Lothian, was fined £40,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Kerry Cringan said:

"This was an entirely preventable accident which could have been avoided had simple controls been in place. There was the potential for this failure to result in fatal or serious injuries not only to the person working on the annular, but also to employees in the surrounding area.

"Oil States Klaper Ltd failed to plan the work to ensure that there was no pressure in vessels before removing any parts of those vessels. In addition, they did not take suitable precautions to keep people away from vessels under pressure, or to contain parts that could be ejected if the pressure released.

"Mr Hunter sustained terrible injuries that have continued to have an impact on his life. Companies cannot afford to become complacent when dealing with high risk activities like pressure testing. They should regularly review their systems to ensure that all test pressures liable to cause injury are suitably safeguarded."