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First invalid from gas sector

May 15 2013, 16:02

By Laura Suleimenova

Three years ago we wrote about the woman who suffered from the accident at the Tengiz oil and gas field on July 2, 2005 (Ak Zhaik, dd. 15.04.2010, “Tengiz doesn't believe the tears or the history of one intoxication”). Gulbanu Abdullaeva, who was then an employee of one of subcontracting companies of TCO, virtually became an invalid. But it took her eight long years to prove it.

GAS ATTACK

Let's run back over to what happened on July 2, 2005 at the Tengiz field. Untreated sour gas in the volume of 30 000 cubic meters was accidentally released at the Tengiz plant. Over 7 000 employees have been evacuated. About 200 employees sought medical help and 3 employees were taken to hospital by ambulance. However, forensic medical examination confirmed only 4 cases of hydrogen sulphide poisoning.

Two criminal cases were initiated based on the accident facts. The first one, under Article 227 of RoK Criminal Code, “Violation of ecological requirements to economic and other activities” was soon closed.

The second case, under Article 282 of RoK Criminal Code (“Pollution of environment with causing harm to human health”) was closed and resumed several times. There was only one person affected and it was Gulbanu. The fates of other three persons, who were also poisoned by the gas on that day, are currently unknown.

Special Commission of the National Center of Work Hygiene and Occupational Diseases under the chairmanship of the Doctor of Medical Science S. Е. Mukhametzhanova confirmed the initial diagnose: “consequences of acute exposure to hydrogen sulphide. The 2nd degree toxic encephalopathy. Occupational illness (highlighted by me - L.S.), primary.”  

GOING THROUGH PURGATORY TO GET THE ACT

She managed to obtain an industrial accident act (Form H-1) from the employer only on January 25, 2008 through judicial process. The act was not filled in full compliance with the form: the columns where the division of employer’s and employee’s faults should be shown percentagewise, stayed blank. However, the employer’s position here could be understood: in actual fact, the damage to the young woman’s health has been caused during the accident at TCO’s production facility and now it was the subcontractor who had to take the full responsibility.  

During further five years the parties kept winning the court cases in turns.    

On November 17, 2011 the Cassation Board of Atyrau Oblast Court, having considered the civil case brought by Salavat Ishai, the Atyrau Oblast Chief State Labour Inspector, in the interests of Gulbanu Abdullaeva towards TCO’s subcontractor, affirmed Zhyloi District court decision about the completion of H-1 act (in that court decision the employer’s fault was estimated at 100% and employee’s - at 0%).  

The Board’s judgment was satisfied only on April 23, 2013 when the ex-employer included changes in H-1 act on January 25, 2008 and fully admitted its fault.

INVALID IS NOTHING, IMAGE IS EVERYTHING

Stepan Phillip, Abdullaeva’s authorized attorney, says that based on this act the medical-social commission can establish Gulbanu’s disability category and she can get a state pension, as well as have the chance to receive compensation from her former employer for harm caused to her health.

– The harm to her health was caused by Tengizchevroil. Why is it the subcontractor then that is held responsible? – I asked Stepan Phillip. 

 – The matter is, when Gulbanu suffered from the accident, the subcontractor was supposed to inform TCO in a written form. However, the subcontractor hasn’t done this. By hiding the fact they tried to save their image to get future contracts during tenders. I am sure that if the subcontractor informed TCO in a formal way about this case, the company would have taken due measures to help her to restore her health and compensated for the damage caused. However, in this situation the subcontractor has the right to appeal to the court and “to redirect” the fault to TCO. But it won’t do that due to the reasons I mentioned before. 

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