Rig Safety: Well Worker Crushed

Thursday, August 25, 2011 @ 03:08 PM gHale

New Iberia, LA-based Estis Well Service LLC is facing $132,300 in fines for one willful and eight serious safety violations following the death of a worker at Rig No. 23 located near Bayou Sorrel, said officials at U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“This company willfully jeopardized the safety of its employees,” said Dorinda Folse, OSHA’s area director in Baton Rouge. “If the company had followed OSHA and industry standards, this tragic accident might have been avoided.”

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An employee died in March when a land-based portable rig, mounted on a barge, tipped over and crushed the employee to death. The company was using the rig to conduct remedial operations on an oil well to increase production.

The willful violation was for failing to ensure protection for employees from falls while working on an elevated drill floor by providing rails or personal fall arrest systems. A willful violation exists when an employer demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The serious violations include failing to utilize confined space permits; provide an emergency escape line or other form of emergency egress for employees working on the monkeyboard (a platform on which a derrickhand stands to handle the top end of a pipe as it is run into, or out of, the drill hole); utilize industry-approved methods to anchor or brace a well rig; ensure the use of personal protective equipment such as fire retardant clothing; and provide a competent, qualified person on the rig to administer first aid in the event of an emergency. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Estis Well Service, which employs about 44 workers, has operations in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

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