Drilling industry moving backwards on safety, inquest hears

A gas drilling rig manager has told a coronial inquest yesterday that in regard to the safety the industry “has gone back to the bad old days”.

APN reported that former AJ Lucas rig manager Justin Smith was in charge of a Santos drilling site in 2009 when a co-worker, 24 year old Cameron Brandt Cole, was killed by a two-tonne pipe rack that fell off a semi-trailer on August 14.

Cole died three hours after the accident, on the way to hospital.

The Santos site was about 51km east of Injune, in Queensland’s Surat Basin.

Smith told coroner Terry Ryan that he had been promoted and given the title of safety manager, although he had not been told what the role meant.

He said that since Cole’s death the industry had adopted “fixed cost” rig moves.

“You basically now have 24 hours to move a drilling rig,” he said.

“It is a time restraint that is very unrealistic.

“The industry has gone back to the dark old days and someone is going to get seriously hurt.”

Smith said he thought every day about what happened to Cole, and that he was “terribly sorry” that it happened.

“Cameron was a very good friend of mine and I miss him terribly,” he said.

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