Four companies in Colorado’s oil and gas industry are facing a total of $70,711 in fines after a May 2017 explosion killed a worker.
Oscar Lopez Velasquez, a 32-year-old employee of Energes Services, an oilfield contractor, died after flammable gases or vapors ignited, causing the blast and fire.
“Oil and gas industry employers must take proper precautions for hot work in the presence of flammable hydrocarbon vapors,” said Herb Gibson OSHA Denver area director, in a statement. “OSHA and the industry have issued guidance for employers on the hazards of flammable materials and appropriate protective measures.”
The incident, which occurred at a Mead, CO oil storage site, happened as workers were merging two tank batteries, operated by Anadarko Petroleum, into one. According to OSHA investigators, the employees were working near pipes connected to a crude oil tank, which emitted the vapors that caused the explosion. Three workers suffered third-degree burns in addition to Velasquez's death.
After an investigation, the agency cited Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Energes Services LLC, Dominguez Welding LLC and Unlimited Services LLC for exposing employees to health and safety hazards including potential ignition sources into work areas containing flammable gases or vapors; not isolating flammable gases or vapors from welding activity; and not adequately inspecting the worksite and addressing safety hazards including an excavation.
Each company has held an informal conference with OSHA’s Denver area office to discuss and attempt to resolve the citations, according to a statement from the agency.