North Sea Incident Warrants PSA Order to Weatherford: 'Limit Human Error'

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) of Norway has issued an order to Weatherford International following the September 2007 accident on the West Epsilon Rig when a section of 30-inch casing, weighing 8.5 tonnes, crashed onto the driller's cabin of the mobile facility.

The PSA also issued an order to Seadrill, the owner and operator of West Epsilon, to review the incident and identify causes of nonconformities in procedures.

The order requires Weatherford "to ensure that this type of elevator satisfies regulatory requirements so as to limit the possibility of human error" and "ensure that satisfactory user instructions are prepared for these elevators and that the user instructions are available in connection with use."

The order relates to all elevators the company has for rental.

According to the PSA, a process was underway to pull, disassemble and lay down the casing on the deck when the lifting collar (elevator) opened up and the casing fell out and down on the drilling hut. The casing collapsed the roof of the drilling hut, and the end of the casing ended up in the driller's chair.

The PSA reported only minor injuries, including the driller sitting in the chair who dodged the falling elevator, suffering only lacerations.

The PSA stated that the direct cause of the accident was that the elevator was not properly closed and locked when the casing was lifted. The elevator was rented temporary equipment delivered by Weatherford.

Weatherford declined to respond about the issue of the PSA order.

On Weatherford's web site, the company states, "In all of our operations, Weatherford's most important mission is to pursue the highest possible standards to maximize our Quality, Health, Safety, and Environmental performance."

Furthermore, the top objective is to "assure the quality and technical integrity of our products and services so that they are fit for purpose and that their functional specifications match the customer's application in all instances."

Norway's PSA set a deadline of Feb. 18, 2008 for presenting a final plan for implementing the order.

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