Heads must roll at WA WorkSafe over botched oil and gas safety investigation

Published: 8 Jul 2024

Heads must roll at WA WorkSafe over botched oil and gas safety investigation

8 July 2024

The Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Workers’ Union are calling for heads to roll at the Western Australian Safety Regulator WorkSafe after failing to prosecute the companies responsible for a potentially deadly incident that was captured dramatically on video and exposed on the Offshore Alliance’s social media channels.

Two offshore workers were almost killed in 2021 during the decommissioning of Santos’s Sinbad oil platform, when the lifting process of an oil platform failed and the removed head of the platform swung wildly from a crane above the scrambling work crew, who hung for dear life on the side of the tower below. The workers were not just at risk of being crushed and killed by the flailing oil platform but could also have been killed by the steel lifting cables that broke during the lift and sliced through the air above their heads.

Video posted online by the Offshore Alliance on social media showed how close to death the work crew were during the incident.

The botched lift involved numerous companies: Santos contracted Dutch company Fugro to remove the Sinbad platform, Swiss-based Allseas supplied the crane-equipped vessel, and rope-access technicians were from the then Singapore-listed AusGroup.

The MUA and the Australian Workers Union, through the Offshore Alliance, have pushed the WA safety regulator to investigate and pursue prosecutions over the reckless indifference to human life. However, the regulator wrote to the Offshore Alliance last week to claim too much time had passed since the incident to prosecute. 

“Santos and Fugro would rather do a job quickly and cheaply than safely, but the WA safety regulator apparently doesn’t want to take any action against these reckless industrial cowboys,” said the MUA’s Assistant National Secretary Thomas Mayo.

“If a safety regulator can’t or won’t do its job then that agency needs a clear out from top to bottom.

“The MUA will never stand idly by when there has been such a flagrant disregard of our members’ safety by reckless and negligent companies.”

Will Tracey, the Maritime Union’s WA Branch Secretary, said the incident should have led to swift and vigorous prosecutions launched against those deemed responsible.

“Our message to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in WA is that if they won’t prosecute this breach we are coming after them too,” Mr Tracey said.  

“It is unconscionable that the safety regulator sat on its hands for almost three years. If heads don’t roll for this at WorkSafe the entire agency must be broken apart and rebuilt.”

One of the key reasons Worksafe WA has refused to prosecute the incident is a flawed and dangerous logic that only prosecutions which would cost less to run than the maximum potential fine should be progressed. Worksafe WA claims that the maximum potential fine for the Work Health and Safety breach that occurred at the Sinbad platform was $110,000 at the time of the incident. 

“This is an alarming and inexcusable failure from the safety regulator,” said Kade Wakefield, Acting National Secretary of The Australian Workers’ Union.  

“DEMIRS exists to keep workers safe and to hold employers acting recklessly to account, but it is failing that mission.

“Workers in all sectors need to be confident that there’s a safety regulator with teeth that’s willing to act in the interests of their safety at work. Right now, all we have here is a regulator rolling over and abandoning workers in the hydrocarbons sector.”



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney