The prosecution followed an incident on 30 August 2008 when a fuel pipe collapsed onto Juan Quintanilla Romero as he worked on a fuel tanker which was docked at Fawley Refinery in Southampton. The pipe fell after the jib from which the pipe was suspended and collapsed due to a severely rusted bolt. The site and the jib were owned and operated by ESSO and Austin & McLean had been hired by ESSO to undertake maintenance on the jib.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had originally pursued a charge of gross negligence manslaughter against Austin & McLean, which was defined as corporate manslaughter under the common law. Whilst the charge was made after the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 came into force, the CPS decided to proceed under the common law as the majority of the conduct on which the charge was based took place prior to this date. However, the CPS ultimately decided to discontinue this charge. Austin & McLean pleaded guilty to breach of s3(1) HSWA, and a third charge of breach of s2(1) HSWA is to lie on file.
ESSO was also prosecuted and pleaded guilty to breach of Regulation 9 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations and a second charge of breach of Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations is to lie on file. Three other charges which ESSO had faced were discontinued by the CPS.
Sentencing of both companies is due to take place in December and a further update will follow after the hearing.