The workers were lowering a logging tool, used for examining the geological formations of an oil well, into a well which was fitted with radioactive equipment.

However, Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard earlier this week, 14 employees of Schlumberger Oilfield UK, were exposed to radiation for about four hours at this radioactive equipment was not properly loaded.

The court fined the firm £300,000 for a breach, which took place on a rig approximately 210 miles east of Dundee in April 2008.

Schlumberger had been contracted to undertake wireline logging operations as part of the Maersk drilling programme for the Cawdor well.

Following the case, HSE inspector, Gillian Rodaks, said: “Loss of control of any radioactive source is extremely serious, particularly of the size involved in this incident.

“And it was only by good fortune that the source was recovered in a relatively short period of time.

“Had someone held it, even just for a few minutes, they would have received a significant radiation dose which may have resulted in injuries to their hands and increased their risk of developing cancer in later life.

“The incident was entirely foreseeable and preventable, the possibility of a worker failing to correctly load a radioactive source from a mobile container into a logging tool had not been identified in the company’s risk assessment; adequate control measures were therefore not in place to control this risk.”

“This case should serve to remind employers and employees, whether in industry, medicine or research, of the need to be constantly vigilant when working with radioactive sources.”

Luke Walsh

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