Oil workers facing lifetime of cancer tests after rig radiation exposure

Oil workers who were exposed to radiation on board a North Sea oil rig are facing cancer tests for the rest of their lives

The men, who may have ingested contaminated particles while removing redundant pipework on EnQuest’s Thistle Alpha, claim they are now living “six months at a time”.

Medics initially based health risks on an eight hour window when the team could have breathed in the alpha radiation.

But the Wood Group workers, who were on ad-hoc contracts, claim there were “multiple exposures” over a 21 day maintenance shutdown.

When they got back to dry land medics told them there was a “low chance” they could develop cancer but they “could not rule it out”.

Unions have now warned them that they would have to develop a health issue before making a claim against their employers.

Rigging supervisor Steve Innes, from Sunderland, was exposed to the Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) back in December.

The 20-year-industry veteran claims EnQuest and Wood Group have failed him in their duty of care.

He said: “We’ve got to have blood tests every six months for the rest of our lives,

“Our families are distraught. They’ve blatantly admitted what’s happened but said we can’t do anything about it.

“They’ve left us in no-man’s land. We’ve got to worry about this for the rest of our lives and there’s nothing we can do about it unless we contract cancer.”

The men were under the impression that proper risk assessments had been carried out ahead of them starting the job.

But more than eight hours into the job an inspector noticed radiation readings from the exposed pipework.

None of the men were wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the time.

Mr Innes said once back in Aberdeen they were briefed by a medical professional who could not guarantee that their health would not suffer in the long run.

A Wood Group spokeswoman said: “The health and safety of our people is always our top priority. As a precaution following the incident, we downmanned 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.”

EnQuest confirmed the exposure earlier this week but claims it was less than 1% of the level reportable to HSE.

The Thistle Alpha lies 125 nautical miles north-east of Sumburgh, Shetland.

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