ExxonMobil fined $40,000 after near miss on rig off Nova Scotia last fall

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s offshore regulator has fined ExxonMobil Canada Ltd. $40,000 after a “near miss” incident last fall that saw a chain dropped on the Noble Regina Allen drilling rig.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board says it found the oil and gas company was not in compliance with drilling regulations at the time of the Nov. 5 incident.

Five nearby workers narrowly escaped injury when a 15-metre chain, along with a swivel and shackle with a combined weight of 102 kilograms, fell nearly 18 metres to the deck during a lifting operation in the derrick area.

The chain landed about 30 centimetres from one of the workers who was helping the others disconnect a load.

The offshore board says the equipment used in the lifting operation was not properly maintained and operated to prevent the incident.

It says it determined the violation was subject to an administrative monetary penalty that was issued on July 12 and paid by ExxonMobil on Aug. 12.

“While no one was injured, the incident was classified as a near miss with the potential for a fatality,” the board said in its notice of violation.

It found the chain dropped because of the failure of a shackle, caused by a nut that was not held by a cotter pin. The pin serves as a retention device for the nut, which prevents it from turning and loosening from the bolt.

The board also said its post-incident inspections identified a number of issues in addition to those raised by the rig operator.

They included shackles with cotter pins that were missing, shackles that had old pins that were reused, pins improperly sized for the hole in the bolt, pins showing signs of corrosion, and improperly installed or secured cotter pins. The investigation also found that replacement cotter pins were not readily available.

The board said it undertook a “significant effort” to ensure corrective actions were developed and implemented.

“These included enhanced quarantine practices for loose lifting gear, additional training on safe lifting practices, and a number of other measures which strengthened the overall safety management system.”

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