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Shell worker victim of flagrant HSE breaches resulting in radioactive contamination

The readings were literally sky high … over 6300 Counts per second with the presence of Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation. the entire area was highly contaminated, but all warning signs had been removed and no personal protective equipment available. I do have a host of documentation to back up my case and I have been advised by my Member of Parliament and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pursue this issue due to the horrendous nature of the incident accompanied with the Duty of Care that “Shell” should have initiated to show that they are serious about protecting employees, contractors and joint venture personnel.

By John Donovan

The text in black italics above comes from an email I received on 27 November from a former Shell worker, Mr Keith MacDonald, who has a tragic tale to tell.

In August 2000, Keith worked for Al Furat Pet Co (AFPC) in Syria. Shell has a major stake (32%) in the company. AFPC is managed by Syria Shell Development (SSPD). Syria Shell Petroleum Development B.V. operates as a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc. Furthermore, Mr. MacDonald received his instructions at AFPC directly from Shell managers. He was to all intents and purposes working for Shell. 

I have written twice to Shell CEO Ben van Beurden explaining the background circumstances of a serious work incident which led to dire medical consequences that have gradually emerged over a period of time from radioactive contamination exposure.

I supplied Mr Van Beurden with a copy of the email I received from Keith MacDonald in which he eloquently sets out what happened to him and his family.

I mentioned to BvB the recent coverage of Shell’s claimed ethical code and significant charitable donations to good causes. I supplied an email address for Keith so that BvB could, if he felt the least bit of compassion or interest, instruct a colleague to contact Keith direct to establish the facts. Neither Keith nor I have heard anything from Shell.

Apparently Shell is more interested in PR opportunities for supporting prominent good causes than in the health of a former Shell worker whose life has been ruined by Shell.

Although Keith has supplied me with photographs of the medical consequences to his body, I have not passed them on to Shell, or published them, because they are too disturbing.

I have published documentation confirming Keith MacDonald as being the subject of a hazard identification report. Shell has seen the documentation and has not disputed authenticity.

I also gave Shell the opportunity to comment for this article. Again, complete indifference. No response to the tragic chain of events that befell Keith and his family as a consequence of his work and work instructions given to him by Shell.

A shameful situation.

EXTRACTS FROM AN EMAIL I RECEIVED FROM KEITH MACDONALD ON 27 NOVEMBER 2017

I am Keith MacDonald now aged 66 and I have a heart wrenching story that needs some justice and closure.

I have been a hard working man for my entire working life and have worked in the UK and overseas in the Oil and Gas industry.

I had a terrible ordeal in Aug 2000.  I was contracted out by a company called Gray McKenzie Oilfield Services however they only provided me with the documentation, visa etc to work for AFPC (Al Furat Pet Co) which was managed as part of a JV with SSPD  (Syria Shell Pet Dev) part of Royal Dutch Shell

Whilst there in Syria I was working as a site inspection / integrity inspection engineer to evaluate the existing production facilities to establish a detailed life expectancy of the oil facilities there. I was made aware that in some locations in south east Syria oil fields  near  Deir Ezzor there are wells that have seriously high levels of NORM ( Naturally Occurring Radiation Material) effectively the oil is pumping and the water content is contaminated with all sorts e.g.  RADON Hydrogen Sulphide etc… Awareness courses were run and we were all notified that all “Contaminated Areas” were fenced off with warning signs plus protective clothing, masks etc would be available.

On Aug 1st 2000 I was notified that a particular well THAYEEM 107 had a leaking flow line and requested by the Shell Senior Engineer a UK expat to go and look at the situation and assist in the rectification.

When I arrived at the site there were approx 20/25 personnel working and had replaced a section of piping that was leaking from the wellhead piping. The Syrian site supervisor asked me to check a valve as it was faulty and not having a replacement on site I asked them to pressure test it  and we could replace it at a later date.

I then went to the site office to take some coffee while they were arranging the test and I noticed a “radiological report” taken early that day. The readings were literally sky high … over 6300 Counts per second with the presence of Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation. the entire area was highly contaminated, but all warning signs had been removed and no personal protective equipment available. I was furious and left the site and went to see the Shell Senior Engineer and having raised an Incident Report he signed the document in agreement. I was so upset that I might have ingested or inhaled the radioactive particles as well as external skin contamination.

Upon returning to the UK I discussed the incident with people more knowledgeable of the possible effects and they said it could not be certain if any damage was done or how long it would take to become evident.

In July 2005 I had to have a heart pacemaker fitted for irregular heartbeat, this was due to the high stress and worry of the long term effects. Even today so many years later I am on daily medication

The upshot of all this is that I have now had 7 procedures to remove skin lesions and in 2010 my young son was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia) I did more research on this and I was told that the second highest cause could be if one or more parents had been exposed to excessive Radiation. My son was treated in the Bangkok Hospital in Thailand, however, after three years of treatment my son relapsed and died on 29th Nov 2013.  I had paid a small fortune (my life savings) to try to save him and build a home and all that was gone…

Shell have never offered to make amends and in fact AFPC requested that my employment be terminated as I was viewed as “a disruptive individual” this was obviously due to a cover up at the Syria site office

I do have a host of documentation to back up my case and I have been advised by my Member of Parliament and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pursue this issue due to the horrendous nature of the incident accompanied with the Duty of Care that “Shell” should have initiated to show that they are serious about protecting employees, contractors and joint venture personnel. I am however convinced that the Site Management in Syria whom I could mention tried to cover up the incident, therefore leaving the management in The Hague with no knowledge of the incident and the now long term effects it’s had on my life

….our Human Rights have been so badly abused by an EU major oil producer who “supposedly” pride themselves on safe working practices and environment conditions

I would implore you to see what you can do to help me get justice and reasonable compensation and give my family a future, this is due to the fact that I am struggling to live and have a small family to support

Kind regards

Keith W. MacDonald

FIRST OF TWO EMAILS FROM JOHN DONOVAN TO BvB. 

From: John Donovan <[email protected]>

Subject: MR KEITH MACDONALD
Date: 1 December 2017 at 17:11:11 GMT
Cc: Keith Macdonald 

Dear Mr Van Beurden

I understand that you are a regular visitor to my website royaldutchshellplc.com.

I am sure that in any event you are aware that it is a magnet for parties with an interest in past or current activities of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

That includes individuals, companies, law firms and international organisations, such as Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and WWF.

I was contacted for advice earlier this week by Mr Keith MacDonald.

17 years ago Keith worked for Al Furat Pet Co, which was managed as part of a JV with Syria Shell Pet Dev.

In his email below, Keith eloquently sets out the tragic chain of events that befell him and his family as a consequence of his work and work instructions given to him by Shell.

Keith did seek legal advice, but it turned out to be misguided and the dire consequences of what happened have become clearer as the years have passed.

He says that “Shell have never offered to make amends.”  However, no one has apparently ever raised this matter directly with Shell, hence you have not been given the opportunity to comment, or offer any financial help on legal and/or moral grounds.

I would invite Shell to investigate and respond accordingly. Keith has a large number of documents confirming background circumstances, including photographic evidence. I am sure he would be willing to supply it all if so requested and then give Shell a reasonable time to look into these matters.

I would take into account any such considered response from Shell before publishing an article on the subject. If the matter can be resolved directly with Shell, then my interest in his story would be ended altogether. That would be a happy outcome.

I have provided Keiths email address so that you are free to contact him directly if you wish to do so.

If no response is received within 7 days, then I will take it that Shell does not want to take up the above investigation suggestion, or provide any comment.

In that event, I will press ahead with an article and also put Mr MacDonald into contact with certain UK and Dutch legal firms already suing Shell on other matters stretching back even further than the events stated below. At least Shell will have been given an opportunity to comment, and I would make that fact clear in the article.

Kind regards
John Donovan
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