Charges laid after more than two years over offshore drilling rig deaths

An offshore drilling rig was stationed about 90 kilometres off the coast of Warrnambool in August 2012 when two men died.

An offshore drilling rig was stationed about 90 kilometres off the coast of Warrnambool in August 2012 when two men died.

A PROSECUTION case will be held over the deaths of two men on an offshore drilling rig near Warrnambool more than two years after the tragic accident.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) says legal proceedings will commence through the magistrates court over workplace breaches. It did not reveal who had been charged.

The regulator yesterday announced the legal proceedings following union criticism it had been slow to act over the deaths of Peter Meddens, 32, of Darwin, and Barry Denholm, 60, of Lossiemouth, Scotland.

Both men were killed when they were struck by a 120-kilogram steel bar on the rig, which was stationed about 90 kilometres off the coast of Warrnambool in August 2012.

NOPSEMA yesterday hit back at the union. 

“Claims that NOPSEMA’s investigation report has taken two years to prepare are incorrect ... NOPSEMA collected witness statements from more than 20 people, seized evidential material under warrant and engaged three expert witnesses to provide independent reports on specific areas of the investigation,” a spokeswoman said.

It also denied claims it was too close to the oil and gas industry to operate as an unbiased regulator.

“The unions have not provided any evidence to substantiate their claims. In contrast, NOPSEMA publishes an annual performance report that provides information about the authority’s assessments, inspections, investigations, enforcement actions and incidents,” she said. 

Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Michael Borowick said the case highlighted lax OH&S laws for offshore rig workers, which fall under a separate category to those on the mainland. He said it was “outrageous” it had taken two years for charges to be laid over the deaths.

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