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Federal authorities issue violations after investigation of offshore explosion

In mid November last year, an offshore oil platform owned by Black Elk Energy exploded in the Gulf of Mexico near Grand Isle, Louisiana. Three welders, Avelino Tajonera, Ellroy Corporeal and Jerome Malagapo, were killed in the blast and several more were seriously injured. Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Energy Enforcement published a report outlining the findings of its investigation of the causes of the accident. According to the BSEE, safety violations by both Black Elk Energy and contractors hired by the Houston-based company were significant factors in the offshore explosion.

The BSEE investigation found that the explosion occurred when a worker was performing welding work near an oil tank. Oil vapors ignited, which caused two other oil tanks on the platform to explode. The BSEE discovered that proper precautions were not taken before the welding work began. The workers assumed that the site was safe and that all oil residues had been properly cleaned before welding began.

After it concluded its investigation, the BSEE issued 41 safety violations to Black Elk contractors. The four contractors that were cited have 60 days to appeal the citations. The BSEE is still in the process of determining how much the fines will be for the companies at issue.

In the BSEE's view, the conditions on the platform indicate widespread disregard for worker safety. The violations outlined by the BSEE include:

  • Failure to ensure safe working conditions when construction was occurring near flammable chemicals
  • Failure to adequately protect workers from the possibility of a fire before the construction work began
  • Failure to remove oil and other flammable chemicals from the vicinity before welding began
  • Failure to institute proper gas monitoring in the area where welding was taking place

The BSEE also faulted Black Elk Energy and its contractors for not adequately communicating with one another regarding the nature of the work.

For its part, Black Elk Energy has pledged to take steps to ensure the safety of its workers in the future. According to federal regulators, workers have a right to stop working if they believe conditions are unsafe. Some Black Elk workers said, however, that they feared losing their jobs if they held up production.

If you have suffered serious injury in an offshore oil platform accident, consider speaking with an experienced maritime injury attorney. A maritime injury lawyer can explain your rights and help you get the compensation for your injuries you deserve. For more information, contact an attorney today.

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