A chief engineer on the doomed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has told federal investigators that fire and gas-leak alarms had been turned off for at least a year because the platform’s managers didn’t want workers’ sleep disturbed by false alarms.The alarm system could have alerted the crew to shut down the rig’s engines to prevent triggering an explosion of natural gas that had surged up from the mile-deep well, according to Mike Williams, the chief engineer tech who worked for rig owner Transocean, which was drilling for BP. He testified to a panel from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department. He said: “I discovered it was ‘inhibited’ about a year ago, so I inquired. The explanation I got was that from the offshore installation manager down, they did not want people to wake up at 3 a.m. due to false alarm.” Williams said he complained repeatedly, from six months to three days before the rig exploded April 20 and sank two days later, killing 11 workers and causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He said the emergency shutdown system had problems previously. If this allegation turns out to be true, such actions reveal a truly appalling sense of priority on the part of senior management. To bet the health and safety of the rig workers against the possibility of a disturbed night’s sleep counts as a staggering dereliction of the duty of care owed to employees. Oil rigs are dangerous places and when accidents happen they are invariably very serious indeed – that is why the industry’s health and safety standards have to be very high. Bonnar & Company specialises in dangerous workplace accident claims. Our expert legal team can be contacted on FREEPHONE 0800 163 978.
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