Expert In Offshore Drilling Vessel Safety Opines on Fatal Equipment Failure

    Vessel Equipment Inspection Expert

    This case involves an individual with 20+ years of experience in ship maintenance who died on an offshore drilling vessel. The individual was testing the ship’s air compressors which had recently been serviced. While the individual was in the process of reviewing the air compressors, they bumped the cylinder valve causing the air compressor to explode. An expert in the inspection of vessel equipment was sought to opine on the vessel’s owner and operator duty to maintain and inspect safe working equipment and maintain a safe working environment.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please describe your familiarity and experience with offshore drilling vessel safety.
    • 2. Can you speak to the responsibility of a vessel owner and operator to maintain safe working equipment to avoid an accident like the one in this case?
    • 3. What safety policies should have been in place to avoid an accident such as this from occurring?

    Expert Witness Response E-030948

    I have experience operating and managing offshore drilling rigs and have specific experience as a drilling rig manager working for an offshore drilling contractor. In that capacity, I was responsible for ensuring that the company safety policies were followed on the rigs that I managed. In my opinion, the vessel owner has the responsibility to maintain a safe work environment. There are specific safety policies that relate to maintaining the equipment such that it will operate in a safe manner. A general standard for this is API RP 54, Recommended Practice for Occupational Safety for Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing Operations. This standard covers maintenance of equipment such as air compressors. I have reviewed a similar case, in which a supply line from the compressor to the volume tank ruptured because a valve was closed and the relief valve could not sense the pressure. A valve should never be placed between the air receiver and the relief valve. With limited information, I cannot be absolutely sure what caused the particular accident in your case, but the pressure relief valve should have activated, or the air compressor should not have inadvertently started. Either way, the proper procedures were not in place, or were not followed. Supervisory personnel must approve all modifications to equipment, and equipment must be left in a safe mode after servicing.

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