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OSHA has investigated 37 workplace deaths in oilfield since 2010

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OSHA has investigated 37 workplace deaths in oilfield since 2010
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

DICKINSON, N.D. -- A man died Thursday at a drilling site in Dunn County after being struck by a traveling block. His death was the most recent of nearly 40 in the oilfield since fiscal year 2010, said Eric Brooks, area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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The 37 deaths make up about half of the workplace deaths OSHA has investigated in North Dakota and South Dakota in that timeframe.

Ensign U.S. Drilling, the company that employed the man killed at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, reported the incident later that morning, Brooks said. An OSHA investigator was at the site Friday, about five miles east of the Highways 85 and 200 intersection, he said.

State radio reported that Kristopher Barnes, 32, of Minot, was trapped under “blocks” and was breathing but unconscious, according to a release from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office. Barnes was on the floor of the rig, about 30 feet above ground. Ensign employees and Killdeer Area Ambulance members performed CPR on Barnes for a time, but he was pronounced dead at the scene at about 7 a.m.

Department of Mineral Resources records show the rig belonged to Dallas-based Petro-Hunt LLC.

Thursday’s accident, a result of being struck by something, fits into one of the five most common oilfield safety areas where OSHA makes citations. The rest are fall hazards, such as from a derrick platform; electrical; “caught in or between”; and fires and explosions, Brooks said.

Driven Services fined $8,400 for death

In another oilfield death from October, a roustabout company will likely have to pay $8,400 in fines for OSHA violations at the scene of the incident.

Ryan Provancher of Dickinson was exposed to hydrogen sulfide after a pipe where he was working “shot out a cloud of H2S gas,” a co-worker told a Dunn County deputy, according to a sheriff’s office report.

Provancher was knocked out and died at St. Joseph’s Hospital two days later.

A months-long investigation alleges his employer, Driven Services, committed four violations. They are:

  •  Overexposure to hydrogen sulfide because energy control procedures were not correctly followed, resulting in the release of hydrocarbon fluid as Provancher and a co-worker replaced an oil tank recycling line inside a building.
  •  Failure to control ignition sources because a worker was using a battery-operated drill in an environment with potentially flammable vapors.
  •  Failure to follow energy control procedures, like when securing fluid in a line, draining a line, releasing pressure safety, etc.
  •  Failure to properly train employees on energy control.

Driven Services has 15 business days to request an informal conference, contest the citations, or accept them and pay the fines and abate the violations.

Abatement measures could include new training programs, administrative controls and engineering controls.

Investigations into deaths that occur on the actual rig site, like the one Thursday, can take longer because of so many moving parts.

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Katherine Lymn
(701) 456-1211
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