Union demands release of report into offshore rig deaths

Drilling rig the Stena Clyde, where two men died in a workplace accident in 2012 off the coast of Warrnambool.
Drilling rig the Stena Clyde, where two men died in a workplace accident in 2012 off the coast of Warrnambool.

UNIONS are demanding a report into the deaths of two men on the Stena Clyde drilling rig be released. 

Today marks the second anniversary of the deaths of Peter Meddens, 32, of Darwin, and Barry Denholm, 60, of Lossiemouth, Scotland, who were both killed by a falling steel bar on the rig off the coast of Warrnambool in 2012.

But a long-awaited final report into the fatal accident by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is yet to be released.  The rig operated by Stena Drilling and Origin Energy was stationed about 90 kilometres off the coast when the accident happened.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling on the federal government to investigate NOPSEMA’s handling of the investigation. 

“The families of Peter Meddens and Barry Denholm are still waiting for answers two years after they got the terrible news that they would never see their loved ones again,” ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick said. 

“The fact that there has been no prosecution and the report into the investigation has not been released two years after these tragic and avoidable deaths gives weight to this concern. Without a full and independent investigation into the tragedy we cannot ensure other workers will not be exposed to similar dangers.”

Mr Borowick said union officials were blocked from speaking to workers or accessing the site following the deaths. He said offshore oil and gas workers were not covered by the same OH&S laws as mainland workers.

“Offshore safety legislation must be brought into line with national OH&S standards — there is no justification for lower standards of protections for offshore workers,” he said.

The ACTU has accused NOPSEMA of being too closely tied to the industry to be an effective regulator. 

Warrnambool detectives travelled to Western Australia in August 2012 to interview six oil rig workers who were on the rig floor soon after the accident.

Earlier this year NOPSEMA posted an update saying it had “submitted a brief of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) in April and is awaiting their advice”. 

“NOPSEMA has collected numerous witness statements and examined extensive evidence, including material seized under warrant. Three independent expert witnesses engaged by NOPSEMA have provided reports on specific areas of the investigation.” 

The agency said it would support the CDPP if it decided a prosecution was warranted.


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