Oil Field Explosion Injures Three Workers, $467K in Penalties Issued

Posted on 5/13/2022 by Lauren Scott

OSHA issued citations to two energy companies following an explosion on November 4, 2021, at an oil drilling site near Grassy Butte, ND that left one worker permanently disabled and two severely injured. Workers were assembling a blasting cap on a perforating gun when the perforating gun detonated, releasing shrapnel and other debris.

OSHA cited an oilfield servicer for failing to equip vehicles transporting explosives with at least two fire extinguishers located near the driver’s seat. The employer also allegedly failed to ensure safe disposal or reuse of empty containers and packing materials used to wrap explosive materials. OSHA proposed penalties for the company totaling $453,982. Inspectors also noted the company vehicles lacked safety placards indicating the presence of explosive materials, a potential violation of US DOT's Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

The second employer, a well maintenance company, was issued one serious safety citation for exposing workers to hazards during the handling of explosives during perforating operations. OSHA proposed $14,502 in penalties.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Workplace Safety at Multi-Employer Worksites

Under specific OSHA standards (such as HazCom, confined spaces, and asbestos), multi-employer worksites must meet unique requirements to protect full-time and part-time employees, subcontractors, temporary staff, and leased personnel.

OSHA's 1994 Field Inspection Reference Manual first addressed requirements for dealing with violations/violators at multi-employer worksites. The policy stated that on multi-employer worksites, inspectors may cite more than one employer for a single violation of an OSHA safety standard.
In 1999, OSHA issued a directive to clarify its policy (Directive Number CPL 2-0.124). The directive provided several multi-employer working scenarios and defined four types of employers:
  • The "exposing" employer exposes employees to hazards.
  • The "creating" employer is responsible for creating the hazard.
  • The "correcting" employer is responsible for correcting the hazard.
  • The "controlling" employer has the authority to manage the exposing, creating, or correcting employer.

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