Deep dive charges
Date of sentence: 25 May 2023
Court: Magistrates Court of Western Australia
Partner Agency: National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA)
Following Australia’s deepest ever commercial dive, DOF Subsea Australia Pty Ltd (DOF) was fined $945,000 and ordered to pay $97,597 in costs due to its failures to take reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of deep sea divers engaged to work at a depth of between 237 and 270 metres.
DOF was contracted by Inpex Australia to repair a pipeline on the ocean floor at the Ichthys Field project off the coast of Western Australia. The dive took place in June and July 2017 and involved 15 elite saturation divers.
During the dive, 9 of the divers experienced High-Pressure Neurological Syndrome (HPNS) symptoms. These symptoms could have been prevented or reduced had DOF compressed the divers to depth using appropriate compression rates and hold periods.
NOPSEMA, Australia’s offshore energy regulator, received complaints from 7 of the divers, investigated the issue and referred the matter to the CDPP in June 2019.
DOF was ultimately convicted of 3 offences, contrary to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (Cth) in October 2022.
In his decision, Magistrate Tom Hall said he was satisfied the divers experienced HPNS and, in sentencing, said the company’s breaches of its statutory health and safety obligations were aggravated by the fact HPNS was a foreseeable risk.
“This (DOF’s failure to compress divers to depth using the appropriate compression rates and hold periods) is the most serious breach in my view because it is clearly the most pervasive,” he said.
“It represents a systematic failure by DOF.
“These divers are potentially putting their lives on the line in undertaking saturation diving at depth.
“It (compression and hold periods) is something that DOF would be expected to get right.”