Man's death at outer harbour site was an accident, jury concludes

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

The decommissioning and recycling site in Great Yarmouth where Stephen Picken died in October 2019. The image is one of a number shown to the inquest jury sworn in on June 21, 2022. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

The death of a man who fell up to 14m while dismantling part of an oil rig was accidental, an inquest jury has concluded.

Stephen Picken, 62, from Stoke-on-Trent, was working at the Veolia decommissioning site at Great Yarmouth's outer harbour in October 2019 when the elevated platform he was working from was hit "with some force" by a structure toppling backwards.

He died at the scene from multiple injuries.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

A picture shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken, an experienced 'top burner' who died while dismantling parts of an oil rig in Great Yarmouth in October 2019. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

The inquest held at the Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich heard evidence over seven days, the jury reaching its conclusion on Tuesday, June 28.

It heard Mr Picken, known as Chic, was regarded as among the best in the country at what he did and was well respected in the industry.

The dangerous work he was doing involved dismantling parts of oil rigs, specifically jackets - the structures that support platforms - and also their overhangs or stabilisers.

The court heard that on the day of the accident he was cutting through an overhang which toppled backwards, hitting the cherry picker he was working from and throwing him from the basket.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

One of the images shown to the jury at Stephen Picken's inquest showing the structures he was working to dismantle at the time of his death in October 2019. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

It heard the work was considered "straight forward" ahead of the more complex task of dismantling the jacket.

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Summing up the evidence senior coroner Jacqueline Lake said there were procedures in place for risk assessments and method statements (RAMs) but they did not provide details for the position of the mobile platform.

While hinge cuts were talked about in the method statement, it was sit cuts that were carried out.

Picture of rig decommissioning site in Great Yarmouth shown to the jury at the inquest into the death of Stephen Picken

An aerial view of the rig 'jackets' that Stephen Picken was working to dismantle at the time of his death in Great Yarmouth in October 2019. The image is one of a number shown to the jury at his inquest. - Credit: supplied by Norfolk Coroners Court

And work permits to do with working at height and carrying out "hot work" were also not issued.

Richard Hulland, chief risk and assurance officer with Veolia, said the company had made improvements to its safety procedures introducing new minimum requirements.

The company had also introduced "methodology sequencing" with 3D modelling, which was more visual.

The new systems would tackle issues raised during the inquest which included the issuing of work permits, management, and supervision, Mr Hulland said, adding that the company was "absolutely devastated" by Mr Picken's death.

Mrs Lake said she was satisfied by the steps taken to stop anything similar happening again, and stopped short of issuing a prevention of future deaths report.

She offered her condolences to Mr Picken's wife Gail. The couple had hoped to retire to Fuerteventura.