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.