Treatment of workers from Transocean oil rig

More information is coming to light about the treatment of survivors of the explosion on the Transocean oil rig.  According to an article (and podcast) on National Public Radio on 6 May 2010, company lawyers for Transocean had survivors sign waivers within hours of the disaster.

The article says:

“The form that they made them sign had, ‘I was here when it happened, I didn’t see anything.’ Or ‘I saw this and I was or was not hurt,’ ” says Steven Gordon, a Houston attorney who represents some of the survivors….

Then there are the two paragraphs at the end.

One says: “I was not a witness to the incident requiring the evacuation and have no first hand or personal knowledge regarding the incident.”

The second says: “I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation.””

The article ends:

“NPR contacted Transocean and the company sent a response by e-mail. “From the beginning,” the response says, “our focus has been on the crewmembers and their families, working with all parties in the response efforts and conducting a Transocean investigation into the incident. At this time, it would be inappropriate to comment on litigation.””

The treatment of workers who are at a time of great psychological vulnerability is an issue that should be of direct concern to all OHS professionals.  We need to ask whether we would do the same thing were we in the same position.  Is this a disaster management procedure that we would recommend and introduce into company policies and procedures?  If this procedure was in place in our company, would we follow it, in reality?

Safety professionals do not often have to face moral decisions, particularly in large companies where many decisions are made be a committee that may have a range of competing opinions.  Sometimes safety management conflicts with risk management, human resources management conflicts with safety, and corporate aims may not be able to be achieved without sacrificing safety principles.

Perhaps some of the professional associations for safety need to run some scenarios and hypotheticals where these conflicting and competing pressures need to be worked through.  In the past the most popular training scenarios have been moot courts even though that scenario is, for most companies, unlikely.

Kevin Jones

4 thoughts on “Treatment of workers from Transocean oil rig”

  1. They can silence the living, but the silence of those who lost their lives becomes even more deafening. Pretty poor show of care from BP in the light of the continuing Texas City saga.

    Additionally, saying that it is as simple as \’\’the BOP did not work\’\’ sadly shows the lack of understanding of disasters at high levels. BP knows very well how things work on a rig and if (suddenly) the Chariman knows the BOP was inadequate, then surely the Company Man (BP) on the rig would have known well in advance? Why did he then not stop operations?

    The continued corporate rhetoric deeply saddens me.

  2. In the early \’90s I once got injuried on the job. I was employed by Lake Erie Electric, at the GM plant in Dayton, Ohio…The local emergency rescue came to the GM plant got me and transported me to the hospital…I spent two days in hospital and returned to work on light duty. Later after working on job and still under doctors care, I was laid off….I tranferred the doctors\’care to my promary care doctor….When the medicals bills started coming to me, Lake Erie said I never got hurt on their job…I had to hire a lawyer and file law suite against them, which took five years to settle…..Later in 1999 I worked for Lake Erie again in Toledo at the new Jeep plant, they asked me if I had ever worked for them and I said \”NO\”……….

  3. Tony is correct, I can recall a very serious incident where employees were burned (some fatalities) and required medical evacuation from a remote location in top of Australia, one severely burned guy flown down for long term treatment, had his car returned to him and the company charged him for the transport!

    That shows a caring and concerned employer!

  4. One of the first calls the management would have made on notification of the incident would have been to their lawyers. liability limitation would have been uppermost in their minds.

    They don\’t want to comment any further because they don\’t know what spin they are going to have to put on the situation to create \”smoke screens\” around causation, just to blur liability and deflect media scrutiny as much as possible.

    Care for the workers and their families, I think not. More like damage limitation to share value.

    This is the way it is and it is proven over and over again every day.

    Who do you trust with the safety and welfare of your nearest and dearest at work? certainly not the employer and you can forget the authorities they are useless even after an accident event. The workers are in no mans land despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years building the \”safety industry\”.

    The forests of paper used in reports, that gather dust and recommendations that are never implemented unless it is to write another report. There is a palpable lack of duty of care that continues and worsens as time goes on, when the opposite should be the case given the money expended, are we getting value for money? most definitely not.

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