OSHA Cites Texas Drilling Company Following Deaths of Two Workers

Nov. 11, 2011
Best friends Sandy Daves and Jason Bolt did a lot of things together. On June 11, when Daves only had been working for the company for one week, they died together on Robinson Drilling of Texas Ltd.'s Drilling Rig #3 in Lamesa, Texas. Four Robinson Drilling employees have died on the job since April 2010, three of them on Rig #3.

Five employees were performing drilling operations when the kelly bushing, a device that when fitted into the master bushing transmits torque and simultaneously permits vertical movement to make a hole, came apart and fatally struck Daves and Bolt, who were working on the drill floor.

Dawson County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Holder filed a report of what he saw at the scene. In his report, Holder noted, "I observed that there were metal objects, some cylinders and other round metal objects lying on the deck. I asked [Robinson Drilling employee Timmy] Rogers if these parts were supposed be lying around. Mr. Rogers stated that the metal parts were part of the 'bushing or block' and had flown out of it when It broke and fell. I observed a large amount of blood and water on the west side of the 'kelly' on the deck surface. Mr. Rogers stated that the blood was from Mr. Daves. I also observed a red In color hard had near the 'bushing or block' to the east of it. Mr. Rogers stated that this was Mr. Daves' hard hat. Upon closer inspection, there was a large crease in the hard hat. Further east of the red hard hat, was a white hard hat. I observed that there was a large dent in the crown of the hard hat. This hat was identified by Mr. Rogers, as belonging to Mr. Bolt."

OSHA's Lubbock office also began its investigation that day, and the agency has cited Robinson Drilling for eight serious, four repeat and 11 other-than-serious safety and health violations. Proposed penalties total $93,700. One serious violation related to the incident was cited for failing to prevent "struck-by" injuries, which could have been prevented had the employer adhered to industry practices as enforced by OSHA under the general duty clause.

"Two workers lost their lives because Robinson Drilling allowed serious hazards to exist in the workplace," said Joann Figueroa, OSHA's area director in El Paso. "It is the employer's responsibility to follow OSHA standards and ensure that work environments free from all unnecessary hazards."

The remaining serious violations include failing to provide covers on floor holes to prevent trip hazards, ensure that self-contained breathing apparatus are fully charged, ensure that work surfaces are clean and dry, ensure that stacked materials are blocked to prevent materials from moving when placed on a rack and ensure that flexible cords are used properly. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The repeat violations include failing to complete the OSHA 301 form; failing to establish a written respiratory protection program and failing to provide strain relief for flexible cords. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last 5 years. OSHA cited the company for similar violations in 2007 and 2011.

The other-than-serious violations involve failing to properly complete the OSHA 300 logs for recording injuries and illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

History of Violations

OSHA cited the company 27 times between 2002 and 2010; 16 of those citations were classified as "repeat." OSHA also cited the company following the death of Ryan Locke in April 2010 and Wade Bennett in May 2010. In fact, OSHA cited Robinson Drilling in October 2011 for 11 safety and health violations at the company's Gaskin Field, Gaskins Well No. 1, Rig No. 20 work site in Lenorah, Texas. An inspection was conducted by OSHA's Lubbock District Office under the agency's Regional Emphasis Program for the Oil and Gas Industry. Proposed penalties from that inspection total $130,900.

"This is not the first time Robinson Drilling of Texas has exposed its employees to preventable workplace hazards," Diego Alvarado, OSHA's acting area director in El Paso, said in October. "It is fortunate that in this case there were no injuries or fatalities."

The families of Daves and Bolt said they were outraged that the company resumed drilling on the rig within 48 hours of the June deaths. "My brother and my best friend [weren’t] even laid to rest [and] they have it up running … and [they're] not even in the ground," said Daves' sister Anna White. Their family suffered a double tragedy as a result of incidents at Robinson Drilling sites; Ryan Locke was Daves' and White's cousin.

Big Spring, Texas-based Robinson Drilling, which employs about 500 workers nationwide, has 15 business days from receipt of the most recent citations to comply, request an informal conference with Figueroa or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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