Multi-national engineering firm fined £300,000 over North Sea radiation leak

Schlumberger website

An offshore industry firm has been fined £300,000 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court after workers on a North Sea installation were placed at risk of exposure to radiation.

Schlumberger Oilfield UK admitted breaching health and safety laws on a rig about 210 miles east of Dundee during a drill programme in 2008. Radioactive material was left lying on the drill floor for about four hours, during which time 14 workers were placed at risk of exposure.

Schlumberger had been contracted to undertake work as part of a Maersk drilling programme for the Cawdor well.

Elaine Taylor, head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s health and safety division, said: “This wholly avoidable incident could have had devastating consequences for the workers involved in the operation.”

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Insp Gillian Rodaks said:

“Loss of control of any radioactive source is extremely serious, particularly of the size involved in this incident, and it was only by good fortune that the source was recovered in a relatively short period of time. Had someone held it, even just for a few minutes, they would have received a significant radiation dose which may have resulted in injuries to their hands and increased their risk of developing cancer in later life.This case should serve to remind employers and employees, whether in industry, medicine or research, of the need to be constantly vigilant when working with radioactive sources.”

Although Lord Young has gone, his legacy in the shape of his deeply flawed report and recommendations to government on the compensation culture lives on. Our key concern is that with HSE budget cuts here to stay, employers and contractors on North Sea oil and gas installations will be tempted to relax their vigilence and monitoring of health and safety standards. When international firms are found guilty of “wholly avoidable” breaches of health and safety legislation in a particularly hazardous and dangerous working environment we have to question the operating culture of these global organisations and the true extent of their committment to worker safety. 

We can only hope that this fine will encourage Sclumberger and other firms active in the North Sea to improve their standards and ensure that negligence, laziness, ignorance or indifference have no part to play out on the rigs.  

Bonnar & Company Solicitors specialises in hazardous workplace accident claims. Please contact us free of charge on 0800 163 978 if you have been hurt or injured or developed an industrial illness or disease during the course of your employment.

McDonalds prosecuted over acid injury to worker

Fast food giant McDonalds has paid out more than £20,000 after one of its employees was partially blinded by an acid-based cleaner.

According to Wandsworth Council, the court fine was the result of the first successful prosecution against McDonalds in the UK over an accident in the workplace.

The burger chain was taken to court by the council under safety at work laws after a member of staff suffered burns to his face and eyes that has left him with only around 55 per cent vision in his left eye. The injuries were caused when the man, who was working as a maintenance operative at the company’s Wandsworth Bridge drive-thru restaurant, used an acid-based drain cleaner to unblock a waste pipe.

Last month, South Western magistrates court heard that on June 23, 2008, the employee, with the full knowledge of his manager, bought a corrosive chemical drain cleaner from a nearby DIY store. The first attempt at using the sulphuric acid-based cleaner did not work and so the employee was given money by a manager to buy a second bottle. When this bottle was poured into the pipe, its contents blew back into the employee’s face and both his eyes. He was given first aid at the scene before being taken to hospital by ambulance.

Following treatment he recovered almost all the vision in his right eye but much less in his left eye.

The council’s environment spokesman Councillor Sarah McDermott said: “Their member of staff was given money by his managers to buy a very hazardous product.

“No risk assessment was carried out to ensure this product was safe to use, he was not properly supervised while using it, he was not given any training to reduce the risk of an accident, nor was he provided with protective clothing. This was a serious lapse in the company’s internal procedures.”

A spokesman for McDonalds said: “We are very sorry for the eye injury incurred by our staff member. We regret that on this occasion our stringent safety procedures were not followed and we have taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

So, despite Lord Young’s pronouncement that retail environments are basically low risk and his recommendation to government that employers should be allowed to cut back on risk assessment, reality bites back in the shape of a partially blinded worker.

If highly successful ‘public spirited’ firms are committing such breaches of health and safety legislation, we fear for the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of workers employed by small firms when our government seems hell-bent on allowing a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety issues to prevail.

If you have been hurt or injured at work please contact us for a completely free, no obligation review of your case on 0800 163 978.
 

‘Bananas’ Bus Slips Up In Bridge Crash

A passenger had a lucky escape when a bus hit a low bridge and had its roof sliced off in Edinburgh yesterday afternoon.

The double decker crashed into a rail bridge near Murrayfield Stadium and fortunately the man on the top deck suffered only minor injuries after being thrown into the stairwell by the impact.

Thankfully, the driver and three other passengers on the Go Bananas bus – which is hired out for stag and hen parties – also escaped unhurt.

This incident serves as a prime example of the need for the proper risk assessment of business activities involving members of the public and highlights the dangers of the wholesale watering down of safety standards recommended by Lord Young in his recent ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ report to the government. In his report Lord Young proposed to remove the burden on business by removing the statutory requirement for formal risk assessment across a wide range of commercial and not for profit enterprises because he believed the they were not inherently dangerous and that a proportionate response to health and safety risk was needed.

If a group of guys or girls had been upstairs on this bus at the time of the crash there would have been multiple fatalities and the tabloid press, quick to demonise accident victim compensation claims, would have been clamouring for evidence of route planning, driver training and of course, risk assessment…

Let’s hope the lesson has been learned by all concerned with this incident and that other private and public operated bus operators in Scotland take note that the health and safety of their passengers has to be their prime responsibility. Health and safey legislation is not a burden on enterprise it is a positive engine of business value, not least because the costs to the insurance industry are reduced if we all take care on the roads and elsewhere. At least on this ocassion we are not looking at wrongful death claims in addition to bus and bridge repair costs.

If you have been hurt or injured in an acident on public transport in Scotland within the last three years, please contact us for a FREE no obligation legal review of your case on 0800 163 978.

Lord Young of ‘Gaffem’…

So farewell then Lord Young of Graffham.

You resigned after you made a gaffe.

You claimed that most people had ‘never had it so good.’

Unfortunately this just isn’t true,

Like much of your ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ review.

Adieu.

Cuts to legal aid bill deny workers access to justice says TUC

Major government reforms intended to cut the legal aid bill by £350m a year by 2015 will deny many workers injured or made ill by their work access to justice, unions have warned today.

The proposals announced by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke will dramatically reduce access to legal support, with employment and personal injury costs on the government hit list. Mr Clarke said: ‘I believe that the taxpayer should continue to provide legal aid to those who need it most and for serious issues.’ Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly was left to spell out changes to make life easier for defendants. ‘One of our key proposals is reforming the current ‘no win no fee’ regime,’ he said, adding the ‘proposals are designed to prevent the situation in which, regardless of the merits of their case, defendants are forced to settle for fear of prohibitive costs.’

Forgive me if I’m missing the obvious here, but don’t the defendants have their own legal team who fight for their interests? Who, pray tell, is forcing these poor, maligned, fearful and mercilessly bullied corporate behemoths into coughing up when there is no case to answer ‘regardless of the merits of the case’? It certainly isn’t our clients.

Mr. Djanogly’s statement epitomises this government’s attitude to the rights of disadvataged people seeking justice for personal injury. He seeks to demonise and bully accident victims whilst pedling the myth of a nation under seige from legions of fraudulent and spurious compensation claims.

Mr. Clark would appear to have so little faith in the justice system that he thinks the defendants, aka the insurance industry, need a little bit of help to keep their costs down, bless ’em. However, being a man of the people he wants to keep legal aid for those who need it most – well here’s a headline Ken – it’s only those who can prove they need it most, ie. people on very low incomes, who have even the slightest chance of getting legal aid for a personal injury action today.  

TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said the personal injury system already worked in favour of defendants, pointing out claims had fallen dramatically in recent years and only a minority of those with a genuine case actually pursue compensation. He added: ‘Workers rights to compensation are being attacked on all fronts. When ‘no win no fee’ arrangements for personal injury claims were introduced the government slashed access to legal aid, saying that it was no longer needed. Now, however, they are both reducing workers ability to access no win no fee arrangements and at the same time cutting legal aid even further.’

Rachael Maskell, Unite national officer for the not for profit sector, said what Kenneth Clarke had done was ‘silence the voices of the weak in British society in a brutal bid to reduce his department’s budget by 23 per cent over the next four years.’ She added Unite would redouble the efforts of its Justice for All campaign.

Hear, hear.

If you have been hurt or injured in an accident or have been diagnosed with an industrial illness or disease, you can discuss your case FREE OF CHARGE with a personal injury specialist at Bonnar & Company on 0800 163 978. We will advise you of your rights and give you impartial expert legal advice.