12/08/2021 - 14:21

Technip avoids retrial in diver safety case

12/08/2021 - 14:21

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Prosecutors have lost a bid for a retrial of Technip after alleged safety breaches in diving operations at Chevron’s Wheatstone.

A platform at the Wheatstone LNG project while it was under development.

Prosecutors have lost a bid for a retrial of Technip after alleged safety breaches in diving operations at Chevron’s Wheatstone.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions had pursued a criminal claim against Technip for breaching safety guidelines, agreed with federal regulators, for saturation diving work in 2015.

Technip had been operating the Wellservicer vessel to lay subsea pipelines for the Wheatstone LNG project.

The work program was for saturation diving, where divers live in a high pressure environment for weeks and stay pressurised when working and when off shift.

That was intended to be in 21 day rotations, with decompression at the end of the period.

Technip changed the safety agreement when a back up vessel required to support divers in a potential emergency had to move to another location, using a change management process in the guidelines.

But after the vessel had departed, discussions with federal regulator the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority indicated that a formal revision of the agreement would be necessary.

Technip was charged with performing work in a manner that was contrary to the safety agreement, known as the safety case, under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety) Regulations 2009.

The trial judge, however, found Technip had not been reckless in implementing the changes to the plan.

In 2020, the DPP successfully sought a retrial, but yesterday the Court of Appeal sided with Technip, upholding the appeal and setting aside the decision for a retrial.

Justices Robert Mazza, Robert Mitchell and Andrew Beech found that Technip’s representative had considered the risks to the diving workforce when changing the plan, with the company concerned that alternative approaches would have exposed workers to risks.

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