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Violations Issued to Offshore Companies for Deadly Platform Explosion

Following a report that blamed an offshore oil company and various contractors for an oil platform explosion and fire that caused the death of three Filipino welders in the Gulf last year, the feds came calling with formal violations on Wednesday. The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued 41 notices of violations of federal offshore regulations to Black Elk Energy and its contractors for the Nov., 2012, accident.


The accident, which occurred at a Black Elk-owned platform off the coast of Grand Isle, killed welders Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo, and Avelino Tajonera. In the report issued earlier this month, BSEE investigators found fault with the company and contractors Grand Isle Shipyards, Compass Engineering and the Wood Group for the incident.


The report found that oil remained in a fuel tank when the welders began their hot work on the platform. Oil vapors ignited while the workers were welding, and started a chain reaction started that launched two of the tanks into the air. In addition to the three workers killed, several other welders suffered severe burns in the explosion.


One tank fell into the Gulf, and created an oil sheen covering about a half-mile by 200 yards.


The report said the companies did not ensure a safe working area, and should have made sure the tanks were cleaned of oil before "hot work" could begin on the platform. The feds also said the welders could have asked to stop work if they feared for their safety, but workers told the investigators that they feared retaliation if they raised concerns.


The feds issued a total of 41 violation notices, known as "Incidents of Noncompliance," to the four contractors. Many of the violations were issued to each of the companies separately. Legally, the companies have 60 days to appeal the violations.


The incident will be reviewed to determine potential fines for the companies, according to the BSEE.


The violations doled out are as follows:


-Failure to ensure worker saftey when construction activities were being completed near oil and other flammable chemicals.

-Failure to take precautions to protect workers from fire hazards and oil accumulations before the welding began.

-Failure to ensure that all personnel followed the welding plan

-Failure to remove equipment containing oil and other flammable substances within 35 feet of where the welding was taking place.

-Failure to ensure the contents of the nearby piping and storage areas were safe.

-Failure to issue written authorization to conduct welding near oil piping.

-Failure to designate personnel to conduct a fire watch

-The area where the welding took place did not have a gas detector, and no gas monitoring was in place.

-The discharge from the platform's sump was not montiored (Wood Group only).

-Failure to ensure worker safety when there was an open-ended sump discharge (Wood Group only).

-Failure to take measures to prevent pollution in the water.


Erin Rose
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