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Queensland Health prosecutes company after radiation injury

Queensland Health has successfully prosecuted a company providing services to the oil and natural gas industry after a man was injured from being exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.

The Brisbane Magistrates Court recently (11/7) convicted Schlumberger Oilfield Australia Pty Ltd (SOAPL) following two breaches of the Radiation Safety Act 1999, fined them $162,500 and ordered them to pay costs.

Magistrate Hall found the company had failed to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of people by ensuring adequate safeguards were in place when radiation sources were used, and failed to ensure that only appropriately licensed people handled radiation sources.

Magistrate Hall commented that the incident was a serious matter which warranted a significant penalty to serve as a deterrent in the industry.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the successful prosecution followed an extensive Queensland Health investigation into the incident which occurred at a drilling site west of Dalby in 2014.

“Five men at a borehole logging operation were exposed to radiation from an unshielded radioactive source that resulted in one of the men sustaining a significant burn on his leg,” Dr Young said.

“Significant radiation exposures such as this have been associated with potential long term impacts on health outcomes.”

Borehole logging is a common radiation practice which is performed in connection with mining and petroleum industries worldwide. The radiation sources are kept in shielded storage containers until required.

Only people who are appropriately trained and skilled can obtain licences to use radiation sources.

Dr Young said the prosecution by Queensland Health under the Radiation Safety Act 1999 highlighted the serious consequences if radiation safety measures were not followed.

“Queensland has tough regulations in place to avoid harms to health associated with radiation exposure,” Dr Young said.

“We work closely with businesses that use radiation to ensure safety measures are in place and implemented, but this result shows that we will not hesitate to take strong regulatory measures when there is a concern for people’s safety.”

More details on radiation safety are available at Radiation Health - Legislation, standards and information.

Media contact: +61 7 3708 5376

Last updated: 24 July 2017