A crew member aboard the Pacific Santa Ana drill ship died after being struck in the head and the recent release of the investigative report found that poor training and supervision likely contributed to an avoidable tragedy. The incident occurred as the workers were lowering an assembly to the sea floor during early stages of exploratory drilling. The victim had just been promoted to the position of floor hand and an investigation found that factors related to this may have contributed to the fatal accident.
Preventable Accident aboard Drill Ship
The accident occurred while the crew on the Pacific Santa Ana worked on the beginnings of an exploratory well. The ship was positioned 250 miles south of Lake Charles, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. It is owned by Pacific Drilling, but was working under a contract with Chevron USA at the time of the incident.
The crew was starting the drilling process by lowering an assembly and its casing down to the sea floor. This was the first stage in constructing the exploratory well. As the crew worked on the drill floor, they connected sections of pipe to be lowered through the drill center. As one piece of the pipe, a 6 5/8 inch drill pipe was transferred to the drill center the end of it struck the floor hand in the head.
Several Factors Contributed to Accident
An investigation conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) concluded that several preventable factors contributed to the fatality. The floor hand had been working in an area out of sight of those workers moving the pipe. He reported on status of latches via radio. At one point the pipe hit a closed latch and bowed. When it finally recoiled, it struck the worker in the head with force.
The floor hand had been in the setback area of the ship at the time and also had several other responsibilities to manage at the same time. The report after the investigation concluded that the worker had not been adequately trained as to when it was safe to be in the setback area, had been given too many responsibilities for his first day in his new position, and he lacked appropriate supervision. All of these could have been avoided with better training, assignment of tasks, and supervision, and may have avoided the fatality.
The Dangers of Working with Large Equipment at Sea
There are many dangers of working on ships, but those with heavy equipment to operate and parts to move are among the most dangerous. Workers must be well trained to know where to be at all times, how to communicate with others, and how to do their jobs safely and with the right equipment and safety gear. When any part of this breaks down, accidents like this fatal tragedy can occur.
The BSEE made several recommendations in its report to help protect future drill ship workers. These include performing pre-job safety analyses, better on-the-job training, and the use of a spotter for similar jobs. While these cannot save the man who died on the drill ship, the changes may prevent future tragedies.