A three-year, £350m Aberdeen Harbour expansion project chalked up a broken leg and a serious head injury in the first two months of construction. By Suzanne Kelly
Spanish firm Dragados is contracted to deepen and industrialise the Bay of Nigg, and is keen to keep a lid on its mounting problems.
According to one contractor:
“Everybody is told at the beginning, ‘There is a group of people against the project
“We encourage you not to talk with these people in any manner, social media included.'”
Despite frequent verbal threats to would-be whistle-blowers, mounting injuries and near-misses are encouraging people to speak out.
One worker described the lead-up to the broken leg:
“On 6 December 2017 an Eastern European broke his leg when a supervisor for Dragados – with no risk assessment, no toolbox talk – instructed a forklift driver to move steel ten meters long (a practice which is frowned upon by others more experienced).”
While the steel was being moved it either hit or fell on the injured party who was rushed to hospital.
The injured man left the UK and is said to have been paid a hefty settlement.
Another person was hospitalised after someone opened the door of a lorry into their head.
One source said:
“I’d say 90% of the workforce don’t know what’s to be done as there are no plans in place.”
They claim safety material is not routinely translated for non-English speakers.
“Some of the management’s English is that poor they don’t understand certain documents.”
The HSE confirmed only one of these two accidents was reported (they would not confirm which incident this was, but they requested materials and are investigating).
One whistle-blower said:
“Dragados are now contemplating sub-contracting out most of the work as they will be unable to complete it; they simply do not have the safety systems in place.”
Javier Buron, Community Engagement Officer, Aberdeen Public Relations and Communications for Dragados SA UK & Ireland, had no idea whether he could even release the company’s Health and Safety Policy – something most companies publicise widely and are proud of.
Mr Buron promised to send a statement, but did not express concern on behalf of Dragados for the injured.
When chased for lines for publication Mr Buron said:
“We cannot issue any of these documents [no documents were requested].
“It is [for] internal use. It is illegal to share it.”
His posting to this multi-million-pound project is something of a leap; his Linked-In profile gives his previous experience as working for Aberdeen’s International Youth Festival (which is about to lose its £100k yearly council funding).
There seems to be as haphazard an approach to supply management as there is to safety and public relations.
Several sources claim 40 tonnes of non-specification stone was imported from Norway, only to be rejected as inferior.
Dragados now has to get rid of the stone and make up the financial loss.
Disenchanted workers are watching to see how this plays out while scratching their heads as to how Dragados became the preferred bidder in the first place.
Work is due to complete in 2020. No one working on site believes this is possible.
The impact of this expansion on the dwindling number of salmon, sea birds and cetaceans is another matter which doesn’t seem to have troubled Scottish environmental authorities sufficiently to make them object; time will tell the impact on wildlife.
Sceptical locals are promised cruise ships will dock. Whether well-heeled travellers will disembark to spend money in Torry’s pubs, betting shops and off-licenses is doubted.
As one source summed it up:
“It’s a complete joke.”
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Hilarious article. The only cited source is a guy who actually doesn’t say anything. Plenty of random quotes with no context. Brilliant ‘journalism’.
Suzanne says Dear Jamie, I’m glad you find safety lapses resulting in a broken leg and concussion ‘hilarious’. Do tell though how you recommend protecting sources in such a situation so as to get the details out while protecting their identities. As to the cited source, for the people who understand safety, the point is that the official Dragados rep doesn’t understand how such accidents are normally reported and that companies are normally happy to release their HSE statement. Perhaps you’ll find some other hilarious articles to comment on, for instance there have been some road accidents that might appeal to your sense of humour. Enjoy! PS – since you don’t see the point in protecting sources, perhaps you’ll like to tell us where you work/what company you work for – it’s almost as if you want to defend Dragados 🙂
Well said Suzanne.
One of the guys I know there told me months ago about the substandard rock and the damage to the dredge which neither the AHB or their Spanish contractors have published. Then again all of AHB top guys are in the Masonic lodge so secrecy is a god given.
I would like to get the figures of how many local people are employed on the project ,remembering the 400 jobs spiel before this commenced .
Another excellent article, Suzanne. Lack of information/transparency with our esteemed ‘cooncil’ about many things is just shocking, but I think people here are so used to it they just can’t be bothered protesting or making a fuss.
Suzanne says- thanks Carolyn and Davie. Carolyn there is still a lot of apathy but far less imo than when I moved up in 2003. There are movements, protests and people asking questions. Lots more to do, but progress is being made. If the mainstream news investigated businesses and the council instead of sucking up to them and seeking free rent, things would be better. Davie, I can’t possibly comment on the influence of Masons 😉 but appreciate your comments. I still would like to hear in confidence from any sources on Dragados at Nigg. I was a safety rep, and my fear is that someone is going to be seriously hurt or killed long before this environmentally-destructive white elephant is completed.
I do hope you’re right about less apathy these days, Suzanne – if so, long may it continue. I couldn’t agree more regarding your comment about the mainstream media. It annoys me when they crow about such-&-such a business moving into, for example, the Silver Fin building or Marischal Square, all the whole omitting the fact that so many are not new businesses to the area so the premises vacated for the move are now empty. Also the misleading headlines – for example, “new coffee shop opens wherever”, when it’s yet another branch of a well known American chain as opposed to a business new to the area, or heaven forbid, an independent, local endeavour.
Honestly, how the Nigg Bay Expansion ever got the go-ahead is beyond me…then I remember the sort of city council we have lived under and it makes sense. Corruption and incompetence.
A “solution” nobody asked for. Throwing tons of money, damaging the environment,poorly sited, to bring tourists to Aberdeen when there is nothing in Aberdeen for tourists. And by bringing them through the sorry-to-say backside of Aberdeen, past train tracks, sewage works and industrial estates and into Torry, a place that has long since forgotten prosperity and smells of fish or other industrial smells, and hardly the lowest crime rate in the city.
It’d be far cheaper for Aberdeen to take sensible steps to improve it’s own tourist appeal so it can catch some of the traffic to Deeside.
Typical ACC, always obsessed with grand expensive stupid business-friendly schemes, that line the pockets of councillors and especially the contractors, but often somehow leave Aberdeen, its people themselves poorer and the city scarred for the effort.