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Murco decommissioning: ‘Someone is going to die’ say whistle-blowers

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THE WORKFORCE doing the risky job of decommissioning the former Murco oil refinery were left in shock on Friday (Oct 20), when 24 members of staff received redundancy letters in the post completely out of the blue.

Staff said that a few of them had “been through this before when Murco originally closed”, and “now we are living the same nightmare again”.

But some of the members of staff given the axe have taken the opportunity to get into contact with The Pembrokeshire Herald to blow the whistle poor working conditions and health and safety concerns at the site.

A number of those affected by the lay-offs, which have come just weeks before Christmas, said that they were promised work until October 2018 at the time they commenced work with Waste Recycling and Decommissioning Ltd (WRD) from Sheffield and REM Engineering (REM), which has ISO 9001 accreditation, based in Failsworth, near Manchester

One engineer got in touch with The Pembrokeshire Herald to offer his views following his dismissal. He said: “WRD and REM are a complete joke.

“The managers and supervisors would not even give us decent explanation as to why we were let go, and it was all done with no warning what so ever.
“The company then on Monday morning (Oct 23) had all Mobile Elevating Work Platforms and Scissor Lifts shut down by Nationwide Platforms as the bill has not been paid.”

Others have expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of proper equipment on the site as well as health and safety standards.

Mr David Beardow, Managing Director of REM told The Herald in a brief emailed statement that “due to a change in the project programme and reduced daylight hours”, that it had been “necessary to reduce the workforce and equipment.”

He did not expand as to what the change in the project programme was and added in no uncertain terms: “No further comments or statements will be issued.”

 ‘A NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS’

This newspaper was contacted by another member of staff, again this week, who said: “We are expected to work with the very minimum of equipment and most of this is broken or apparently on order. There have been a number of accidents which have just been brushed under the table due to a big accident earlier in the year where a local worker almost lost his life.
In an extraordinary email our source, who asked not to be named because of fears regarding future employment contracts added: “The site manager refers to us as ‘mongo farmers’ because we are Welsh, and he has, in my opinion, a total disregard towards health and safety. I personally have seen various health and safety failings which in my professional opinion may result in another an accident.”

The Herald was told: “This firm needs to be exposed as an unfit contractor to carry out the decommissioning of the former Murco refinery and Puma Energy needs to be made aware of this company’s short comings.”

The former employees’ warning was stark: “Plain and simple they are cowboys. Someone is going to die out there.”

Our source added: “The supervisors are labourers who have little or no experience in the oil and gas sector and have no clue what they are doing.

“We want answers and want to stop someone getting hurt on this job due to the company running it.
“We have been told that the client from Pakistan has not paid WRD or REM for six months or so, causing them cash flow problems.”

The Herald contacted Tony Fenwick, boss of WRD. The Managing Director told us on the telephone yesterday (Oct 26) that we should direct any questions to REM.

We asked REM the following question:  How many accidents have occurred on the former Murco site since decommissioning began? And how serious were any injuries? How many staff members required medical treatment? But REM refused to comment on this the brief statement they sent us, but did not attempt to deny that our sources were accurate in their very serious allegations.

PASSING THE BUCK

In May, Dyfed-Powys Police were investigating an industrial accident at the former refinery. A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following the incident, which happened shortly after 9am on Wednesday, May 31.

The worker became trapped while assisting with the dismantling of the site, but at the time WRD was quick to disassociate itself with the incident, directing our inquiries to Puma Energy, the new owners of the site.

Speaking at the time, a police spokesman said: “Dyfed-Powys Police, jointly with Health and Safety Executive, is investigating an industrial accident at Puma Energy, Milford Haven.”

The Herald was in contact with the police yesterday (Oct 26), who said that further inquiries about the progress of the investigation should be directed to the Health and Safety Executive who are now taking a lead in the case.

The Health and Safety Executive have confirmed they are dealing with an active investigation.

Emma Deeny, Communications Manager for the regulator said: ““The HSE investigation into this incident is ongoing.

She added: “We cannot comment further at this time.”

It was confirmed in May that the injured party was a contractor working on behalf  WRD Ltd, and that the member of staff was not under the control of Puma Energy.

A spokesman for Puma Energy told The Herald at the time: “The incident was not on a working site under Puma Energy’s control, but was in the dismantling of the former refinery area within Milford Haven, which Puma Energy did not purchase. This is segregated from Puma Energy’s site by a fenced boundary and operates under its own safe systems of work.”

KEEPING SCHTUM

In relation to the redundancies, lack of equipment and health and safety concerns from staff, David Beardow, MD of REM also told this newspaper: “We will not comment on personal circumstances or commercial relationships.

“We have, and will continue to utilise local labour and suppliers.

“We continue to work with the local community and employ and provide comprehensive training for many employees from the Pembrokeshire area.

The statement from REM was short, lacked detail and disappointingly did not go any way to answer the serious allegations raised by former workers at the Murco site.

HEALTH AND SAFETY ‘CENTRAL’

On its website page REM Engineering paints a very professional image. The company states: “Health and safety is absolutely central to our business and you can be sure that when we are working on your premises or on your project, the safety of everyone involved is uppermost in our minds and in our processes.

“Our health and safety policy sets out responsibilities for managers, employees and sub-contractors so everyone knows what is required of them – and we provide continual health and safety training to help them achieve it.

“To assist us in putting our commitment to health and safety into action and maintaining the most rigorous standards, we use external auditors who visit our sites, unannounced; to check we are following procedures.

“Where we feel there is a need for a specialist response to the health and safety aspects of a particular project, we always call on the expert services of experienced consultants to support our own meticulous approach.

“We are proud of our teams’ safety track record on site. For larger projects where appropriate, we produce a comprehensive health and safety file.”

The website also boats: “We share risks and benefits; working together to trial and develop innovative solutions to service delivery to the benefit of our clients.”

  • Have you been unexpectedly been made redundant from the former Murco site? Are you able to give us more information – confidentially if you wish – which will help us develop this story? Please message us on Facebook. We always protect sources.

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Large emergency service mobilisation to assist driver who went over cliff near oil refinery

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POLICE, ambulance, coastguard, and RNLI and two helicopters were all involved in the extraction of a casualty from a vehicle which had gone over a cliff and landed on the beach at Popton Fort very near to Valero Oil Refinery on Thursday morning.

The emergency call came just after 6.30am, with a large number of rescuers arriving quickly to assist the driver of the vehicle.

Valero oil refinery confirmed that the incident did not involve their facility.

RNLI Angle posted on social media saying the following: “Our crew were paged at 6:37am to a vehicle over the cliff near Popton Fort.

“A vehicle had left the road and fallen onto the beach below.

“Police, ambulance, the fire service and St Govans and Tenby coastguard rescue teams were already on scene, however the lifeboat was requested to assist with evacuating the casualty due to the difficult location.

“Following assessment and stabilisation by paramedics, it was decided that the casualty’s injuries were potentially too severe for transfer by sea, but not ruled out completely due to the incoming tide.

“With this, a request was made for the air ambulance to attend.

“With the air ambulance paramedics now on scene, their assessment was that evacuation by helicopter would be the most appropriate, therefore a further request was made for the a coastguard rescue helicopter to attend and evacuate the casualty.

“With the option of evacuation by lifeboat still a possibility, the all-weather lifeboat stood off should it be required.

“With the coastguard helicopter now on scene, the casualty was handed over into the helicopter for onward transfer to hospital.

“The lifeboat was stood down to return to station, arriving back at 8:30am.”

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National Park Trust supporters take a walk on the wild side

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SUPPORTERS of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust were treated to a dazzling display of wildlife during a recent guided walk through Skrinkle Meadow.

The event, which took place against a backdrop of glorious summer weather, was arranged as a way of expressing thanks to Trust supporters and highlighting the importance of meadows and the Trust’s Make More Meadows campaign.

The Make More Meadows campaign has been running since April 2019, and seeks to reverse a dramatic national decline in wildflower meadows over the last 75 years. So far, it has raised enough money to support 13 meadow sites, covering a total of 132 hectares and providing vital habitats for pollinators and other wildlife.

Director of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust Jessica Morgan said: “The Walk and Talk event at Skrinkle was an excellent opportunity to showcase the colourful results of meadow restoration, and our thanks go to National Park Authority Ranger Service Manager Libby Taylor, whose expertise turned this into a thoroughly enjoyable visit. National Park Authority Wardens have worked for years to improve biodiversity at Skrinkle Meadow, and seeds from the meadow have been used to create other wildflower meadows in the Park.

“On this occasion, six-spot burnet moths stole the show, but in previous years Skrinkle Meadow has provided some of the best orchid displays and richest variety of wildflowers in the county.”

The meadow regeneration theme was of particular interest to many of the attendees, who either have meadows of their own, or are considering establishing new ones.

To learn about the work of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust and exclusive supporter events like this, sign up to the newsletter at https://pembrokeshirecoasttrust.wales/

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Paddleboarder with suspected wrist fracture assisted by Fishguard RNLI

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ON SATURDAY (Aug 13), a female paddleboarder, who decided to take a swim when located at Aber Bach, unfortunately fractured her wrist when diving from a nearby rock. Her female companion called for assistance which resulted in Fishguard RNLI’s inshore lifeboat being tasked to the scene, located between Fishguard and Dinas Head.

The inshore lifeboat, with three crew members, launched at 2.20pm and arrived on scene at 2.40pm. Her injury was assessed by a crew member, who is a practicing doctor, and she and her companion were transferred to Pwllgwaelod beach where their car was located and they drove to Withybush Hospital for further treatment.

The lifeboat then returned to base at 3.00pm.

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