South West Wales

Valero fined £400k after worker was injured in fall

Former Chevron oil refinery, Pembroke, now owned by Valero Image copyright Nick MacNeil

The operators of an oil refinery where a worker was injured after falling 10ft from a walkway have been fined £400,000.

David Thomas, 55, fractured both legs and needed a knee replacement after the access tower he was using at Valero Energy UK Ltd gave way in 2012.

Swansea Crown Court heard he has since developed arthritis and has been unable to return to work.

The firm admitted health and safety breaches at its Pembrokeshire plant.

The court heard the walkway Mr Thomas was using was linked to an oil tanker being unloaded at the refinery in Rhoscrowther, near Pembroke.

The access tower suddenly dropped without warning and his legs got tangled in loose cables.

'Accident waiting to happen'

Mr Thomas was left dangling over the side of the walkway but used his experience as a rock climber to grab a cross beam to take the weight from his legs.

He was rescued by his fellow workers and was later flown to Swansea's Morriston hospital where he spent 17 days.

Rupert Lowe, prosecuting, said the poor design of the access walkway had caused the incident.

He said a maintenance firm employed by Valero had reported various issues and had warned of "a potentially fatal accident waiting to happen".

Although Valero had responded to some of the issues raised, a proper risk assessment was not done, there had been insufficient training and previous incidents had not been investigated properly, Mr Lowe said.

Mark Watson, representing Valero, said the firm had an excellent safety record and the walkway had since been mothballed and another system was being designed.

Judge Peter Heywood said while the equipment had significant design problems, Valero had failed to act after a series of incidents and the "strident" warning from the maintenance firm had proved to be true.

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