UPDATED: Oil workers’ cancer fears after rig radiation exposure


oil workers have been left fearing they will develop cancer after being exposed to radiation while on a North Sea platform.

A total of six Wood Group employees claim they were put at risk by the potentially dangerous particles while carrying out maintenance work on the Thistle installation last

They had been contacted by rig operator EnQuest to remove pipework when they were made to work in close proximity to the material.

The men were under the impression that proper risk assessments had been carried out ahead of their arrival.

But they were only told 12 hours into the job that the environment they were working in was unsafe.

The Thistle platform, 125 miles north-east of the Shetland Islands, was
undergoing planned shutdown activities at the time.

The offshore workers were removing a piece of pipework when they were exposed to naturally occurring radioactive material, rig operator EnQuest confirmed last night.

Steve Innes, a rigging supervisor from Sunderland with 20 years’ offshore experience under his belt, was one of the six people affected.

He said: “It was a shutdown so there was a lot of potential contamination.

“But we were all cleared to go back to work. So we spent a full 12-hour shift, with no protective equipment, in 40mph winds with all those particles in the air. All the dust was all over the scaffold.

“We received our permits to say all the tests had been done and we were safe.

“When we got back they told us we should be safe but that they couldn’t guarantee that we wouldn’t develop cancer or leukaemia further down the line because of the exposure.

“It’s a terrible situation. We were told they broke their procedures but not much else has been done.

“They have totally left their care of duty to their staff. It’s totally unacceptable.”

A spokeswoman for Enquest said: “EnQuest can confirm that, in December 2016, during planned shutdown activities on its Thistle platform, six personnel employed by Wood Group under a contract with EnQuest were removing a piece of pipework when they were exposed to low levels of NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material).

“The level of exposure was less than 1% of the level at which it is reportable to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). However, EnQuest advised the HSE of the matter at the time.

“EnQuest has appropriate control measures in place which are designed to prevent exposure to NORM. Following an investigation, additional precautionary steps have been taken to further ensure that personnel avoid any such exposure.”

John Boland, the regional officer of the Unite union which represents Wood Group employees, said: “We have tried to contact Wood Group and they are not being forthcoming to us. They have told these men they could develop leukaemia or other cancers but now seem to be walking away.

“To us this seems like a betrayal and a lack of compassion from their employer.”

The Press and Journal could not reach Wood Group for comment.

However, a spokesman for the service firm reportedly told other media: “The health and safety of our people is always our top priority.

“As a precaution following the incident, we down-manned our employees from the platform in order to conduct medical assessments.

“We fully supported EnQuest in a detailed joint
investigation and continue to reinforce the application of our health and safety procedures, to ensure the safety of our employees.

“Our commitment and priority following the incident and throughout the investigation has been to the health and wellbeing of our employees.”

A spokesman for the HSE said as no staff raised the issue no investigation has been carried out.


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