Company fails in challenge to risk based prosecution fine
ConocoPhillips (UK) Ltd has failed in its bid to reduce the level of fine handed down after an offshore multiple gas release incident in the North Sea.
The company operated and part owned the Lincolnshire Offshore Gas Gathering System (LOGGS) installation in the North Sea which collects gas from its own well and from satellite platforms and subsea centres and compresses the gas from the subsea wells so that it can be transported by pipeline to its terminal on the Lincolnshire coast.
Three gas release incidents
Starting at the end of November 2012, there were three gas release incidents on the LOGGS platform during maintenance work. Most of the gas from the first two releases and all of the gas from the third release vented safely.
However, 603 kilograms of gas spilled uncontrolled into the turbine hall at a dangerous proximity to the 66 people working on the platform at the time.
ConocoPhillips (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to three offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and at Lincoln Crown Court on 8th February 2016 the judge imposed a fine of £1 million on each of the three breaches and ordered the defendant to pay over £159,000 towards the costs of the prosecution.
At the appeal hearing, held in the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 11 October 2016, Lord Justice Treacy dismissed the appeal made by ConocoPhillips (UK) Ltd in that the company had fallen short of appropriate standards and the case was one of high culpability.
The Judge outlined a serious and systemic failure to address risks to health and safety, both in the permit to work process and in the vital systems that had persisted over a period of time.
In dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Treacy said:
“The risk involved was foreseeable and significant. If the gas had ignited the risk to personnel of death or serious injury was extremely high.
At least seven personnel had been put at extreme risk with a further five at particularly high risk. However, all 66 occupants of the platform had been put at significant risk.
The failures represented by counts two and three amplified and perpetuated the failure to provide a safe system of work reflected in count one.
The applicant fell markedly short of a reasonably practicable standard for a safe system of work. There had been multiple failures and omissions in the permit to work system and these failures had extended some months.”