BP breached health and safety rules which resulted in the death of a contractor who plunged through an open hole on one of its rigs.
A jury at Aberdeen’s Sheriff Court took just under two hours to find the oil giant guilty, by a majority, of the charge of a health and safety failing in 2014 – when Sean Anderson fell through an open grating on the Unity offshore platform.
Sheriff Graham Buchanan said the delay in bringing the case to court had been due to the pandemic and “late material” being submitted on the part of the Crown Office.
In the early hours of September 4, 2014, Sean Anderson, 43, had been working night shift on the Unity, being part of a maintenance team contracted by Cape Industrial Services who were carrying out scaffolding and rope access work.
With just one hour left to work, he was coming to the end of his two-week stint.
Mr Anderson, a multi-skilled scaffolder with rope access qualifications, would have known why the safety barrier had been erected and that it was safe-guarding an opening on the deck.
The court heard he had – in the days running up to his death – been working as part of the team who had built the hard barrier protecting the fatal hole in the decking – through which he fell.
On the night he died, bad weather meant no work was carried out by the team after stopping for a break at midnight.
At around 3.30am Sean – a “keen” worker – had asked the installation manager if there was anything that could be done to “keep busy”; promptly rounding up three other men to carry out a tidy up of the lower deck.
What happened next is not clear, but at 4am, Tony Omar, who had been paired off with Sean to collect rubbish, remembers hearing three bangs and immediately raised the “man overboard” alarm.
Mr Omar said he was “relieved” by the verdict and said: “I’m glad it’s all over for Sean’s family. I think it was the right decision; we were working in pitch black conditions with no lights. They should have closed the grating or put more signs up.”
The court was told the conditions that night had been foggy and dark and Mr Anderson had not been found wearing a life jacket, harness or survival suit. He had been unconscious and was not breathing when pulled from the water.
A rescue craft from the neighbouring accommodation vessel Olympic Orion took him back aboard, but no pulse could be found. He was seen by the ship’s medic, June Harper, who carried out resuscitation attempts until a paramedic arrived by helicopter. The paramedic pronounced him dead shortly after before 6am and Mr Anderson’s body was transferred by helicopter to Aberdeen.
A post mortem later showed the cause of death was serious injuries to his head and chest sustained as a result of a “descent into the sea” from the oil installation. It was recorded that he had suffered very severe and “predictably immediately” fatal head injuries, with extensive fracturing of the skull.
Toxicology results showed no signs of alcohol, drugs or gas poisoning – and no signs of natural diseases that would have resulted in his death.
BP owned the Unity rig, an unmanned pumping station in the Forties Field about 110 miles north east of Aberdeen in 2014, but has since sold it to INEOS.
In a statement, BP said: “We acknowledge the outcome of the court proceedings. This was a tragic incident.
“While we know nothing can be said to change the pain felt by Sean Anderson’s family and friends, our deepest condolences remain firmly with them to this day.”
BP’s defence counsel Murdo Macleod KC will give mitigations next week, before Sheriff Graham Buchanan delivers his sentencing.