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Lifting safety

Heavy objects which fall onto the drillfloor – often with crew close by – represent an unacceptable risk. The PSA has called on everyone involved to make a collective effort to end such hazards.

A wide-ranging order was issued to Statoil by the agency in April 2010 after a serious lifting incident on the Heidrun field in the Norwegian Sea.

Also referring to seven earlier cases when heavy drillfloor equipment had dropped, it required the company to review and improve lifting gear and routines in all its drilling operations.

But another incident occurred in late December, when a 23-tonne slip joint fell five metres to the deck on Njord A. Nobody was hurt, but the person in charge of the lift was close by.

Statoil is operator of this Norwegian Sea platform, while drilling contractor KCA Deutag owns and uses the mechanical handling equipment.

“This event could easily have had a tragic outcome,” says Sigurd Førsund, who heads the PSA team appointed to investigate the accident.

Closely involved in the numerous mechanical handling incidents which have occurred on the NCS over many years, he is at a loss to explain why the industry fails to achieve noticeable improvements.

“One reason has been a widespread attitude that ‘as drillers, we drill – we don’t do lifting’,” he suggests.

“But the truth is that perhaps as much as 80 per cent of what happens on the drill fl oor relates to lifting. That makes it important to apply the appropriate expertise.”

Mr Førsund emphasises that heavy equipment coming loose over the drill floor represents a problem which the whole industry must take seriously.

There have also been a number of serious incidents in addition to those involving Statoil as operator, he adds.

The seriousness of the position is underlined by statistics which show that nine out of 10 fatal accidents on the NCS since 1994 relate to lifting operations.