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Deadly oil well explosion leads to OSHA fines

Oil well at sunset

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $24,942 for Rock Springs, Wyoming-based oil well servicing company Most Wanted Well Service L.L.C. and two other firms after a flash fire killed a 52-year-old worker and burned three others.

OSHA also issued citations against Fort Worth, Texas-based oil well operator XTO Energy Inc. and Big Piney, Wyoming-based servicing company Sherwood Enterprises Inc. following the agency’s investigation into a June fire at XTO’s well site in Watford City, North Dakota, OSHA said in a statement Wednesday.

OSHA said employers at the site failed to maintain well control while employees were troubleshooting a problem with a drill string. That resulted in a release of hydrocarbons that caused an explosion and flash fire.

The accident killed a 52-year-old worker for Most Wanted Well Service and burned two other employees from that company, as well as burned a Sherwood Enterprises employee, OSHA said.

OSHA cited Most Wanted Well Service for failing to maintain well control, exposing workers to fire and explosion hazards. The company was also cited for failing to provide flame retardant clothing to employees exposed to flash fire hazards.

Sherwood Enterprises and XTO Energy have each been cited one serious violation, and each were issued $12,471 in fines, according to the OSHA statement.

“Employers who are directly involved in well servicing operations must coordinate their actions to ensure well control is maintained at all times. Failing to do so can result in catastrophic consequences such as this case where one man lost his life and three others suffered debilitating burns,” Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck, North Dakota said in the statement. “Communication between the host employer and all contractors is critical in working safely at any site.” 



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