LAFAYETTE — A report on a deadly Gulf of Mexico platform fire that killed three workers last year places most of the blame on a contractor that supplied welders for Black Elk Energy, the Houston company that owns the oil and gas platform.
The report, commissioned by Black Elk and written by ABSG Consulting, says work safety procedures were not followed by contractor Grand Isle Shipyard, also knows as GIS. GIS supplies welders and other workers to oil and gas companies as well as providing other services.
ABSG also recommends in the report that Black Elk Energy provide more oversight on work being done on its platforms.
The ABSG report notes that GIS used welders from a contractor in the Philippines, DNR Offshore and Crewing Services. Using subcontractors, ABSG said, violated the contract GIS had with Black Elk.
The report also cites communication gaps among workers.
“Most of the DNR personnel were not fluent in English. … The DNR personnel may not have been able to participate effectively in safety meeting discussions, or read and understand” the job safety analysis reports written before each work shift, the report states.
Black Elk spokesman Dan McGinn said Wednesday the company was unaware GIS was using welders from another company.
“The construction workers were all listed as employees of GIS,” McGinn said. “The workers’ nationality as Filipino is irrelevant.”
He said Black Elk paying for the investigation did not produce a biased report.
“It is available online for everyone to study and evaluate,” McGinn said.
To read the report, go to: http://blackelkenergy.com/images/documents/Investigation-of-WD-32-Platform-Explosions-on-11-16-12.pdf
Crews on the morning of Nov. 16 were performing construction work on the West Delta triad of platforms, which are linked by bridges. The fire occurred just after 9 a.m. as a DNR worker was welding a flange onto a pipe that was connected to an oil tank.
Mark Pregeant, chief executive officer of GIS, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
GIS attorneys said in a federal lawsuit, which GIS filed against Black Elk in April to recoup $223,334 in unpaid invoices, that Black Elk officials and personnel from two other contractors that help operate the platforms were ultimately responsible for worker safety.
McGinn said ABSG investigators worked with the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, in testing evidence.
Public affairs spokespersons at the New Orleans office of the BSEE, which has not released its final report on the West Delta 32 fire, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
According to BSEE records, Black Elk has one of the worst safety and incident records among oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico.
McGinn said Black Elk in the past year has improved its record on noncompliance with government rules on safety and environmental matters. He said that in 2013 almost three out of every four inspections by BSEE officials have resulted in no citations.
The families of the three welders killed in November have filed lawsuits against Black Elk.
Other workers who were at the work site have also filed lawsuits, including one filed in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans on Tuesday seeking compensation of $20 million for two workers who said they suffered burns at West Delta 32.
The same suit says the two workers and their wives also are seeking punitive damages of $100 million for spousal damages, including loss of consortium and mental and emotional suffering.
McGinn said Black Elk does not comment on ongoing litigation.
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