Wyoming Oil Explosion Citations Total $34K

By MEAD GRUVER | February 2, 2012

Workplace safety citations that Wyoming issued to two companies for an oil facility explosion that killed three workers last summer carry more than $34,000 in fines.

The citations allege four violations by Tulsa, Okla.-based Samson Resources, carrying $19,800 in fines. Double D Welding and Fabrication in Mills was cited for eight alleged infractions resulting in $14,850 in fines.

A third, unidentified company also was cited, but the details were not released as of Tuesday evening.

The Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division released the citations for Samson, and for Double D Welding and Fabrication to The Associated Press on Tuesday after the AP filed a records request seeking them earlier in the day.

“Given the fine structure within OSHA, I think these absolutely set a tone of being serious and attention-getting,” said John Ysebaert, standards and compliance administrator for the division. “It is in keeping with fines levied for all fatalities involving serious citations.”

All 12 alleged violations were classified as “serious,” meaning they carry fines of anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000 depending on the gravity of the violation, according to federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration information.

Other categories of violations carry fines ranging from as little as nothing to as much as $500,000 if an employer is convicted of willfully violating a safety standard.

Samson operated the remote Converse County oil well and storage tanks where an Aug. 29 explosion and fire killed James Turner, 55, of Mills; Llewellyn Dort, 32, of Casper; and Gerardo Alatorre, 46, of Mills.

A Samson spokeswoman said she wasn’t sure if the company intends to appeal.

“Samson is still very concerned about this incident and very concerned about the families involved,” said the spokeswoman, Kari Culp.

Nobody answered the phone at Double D Welding and Fabrication after hours Tuesday. A man who answered at the company earlier in the day declined to comment.

Turner worked for Double D Welding and Fabrication. Dort and Alatorre worked for Wild West Construction in Glenrock.

The allegations against Samson included failing to adequately train a foreman to identify hazards in working conditions, according to the citations.

“Employees for two contractors on a company owned well location were working in a straight walled trench excavation, measuring over five feet deep,” one citation stated. “No competent person was on the location for the two contractors, no daily inspections were conducted of the trench prior to employee entry, adequate egress was not provided to the employees working in the trench, and adequate cave-in protection was not provided.”

The allegations against Double D Welding and Fabrication included failing to provide employees with a work environment free of recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury.

One worker was connecting a 2-inch gas line to a tank containing about 33 barrels of crude oil, according to the citation documents.

“This hot work was taking place within 20 feet of the crude oil storage tank and all hazards were not eliminated or accommodated for,” the citation read.

The state mailed the citations to the three companies Thursday. As of Tuesday morning, state safety officials had not gotten confirmation that the companies had received them.

Division officials told AP on Monday that state policy prohibits public release of citations until either the recipients acknowledge getting them or three unsuccessful attempts at delivery. The AP filed a records request in response, seeking the citations under Wyoming’s open records law.

Samson Resources and Double D Welding and Fabrication acknowledged receiving the citations Tuesday, Ysebaert said after providing the citations to AP afterward.

Ysebaert declined to identify the third company cited by his agency. It was unknown if it was Wild West Construction; the company does not have a listed phone number.

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