OSHA Says Proper Tank Cleaning Could Have Prevented Worker's Death


Williston, ND (WorkersCompensation.com) - Dustin Payne traveled to North Dakota looking for a good job, the opportunity to use his skills and the chance to secure a future for him and his fiance back in Alabama. Instead, the 28-year-old Marine veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to his credit is dead, the victim of a massive explosion that his Williston employer could have prevented.

Payne was welding inside a water hauling tank when vapors ignited. He succumbed to his injuries five days after the Oct. 3, 2014, explosion, one of six worker fatalities related to operations in the Williston Basin formation since October 2014.

His employer, Nabors Completion and Production Services Co., failed to clean the water hauling tank thoroughly prior to welding and cutting operations, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators found. OSHA issued one willful and four serious safety citations involving welding operations and has placed Nabors in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

"Dustin Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him. This tragic incident was recognizable and preventable," said Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck. "Containers of oil production water, even after emptied, have the potential to contain flammable vapors. Employers must develop and implement a stringent container cleaning program. No container should be assumed to be safe for welding operations."

The willful violation cites Nabors for failing to clean the container of oil residue thoroughly. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

OSHA inspectors noted the company failed to inspect welding areas prior to work; vent container spaces; separate oxygen and fuel-gas cylinders; and provide a fire watch, resulting in the issuance of four serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Nabors, a Houston-based company that operates the world's largest land-based drilling rig fleet, faces proposed penalties of $97,200.

In February, OSHA signed an alliance with both North Dakota and Montana, and the Montana-North Dakota chapter of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network, to foster safer and healthier working conditions in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota and Montana. The alliance's goal is to reduce occupational exposure to physical and chemical hazards, which have resulted in numerous injuries and fatalities.

Nabors has 15 business days from receipt of its 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

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