The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has placed Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. on its list of the nation’s most dangerous employers after finding the company could have prevented a massive explosion that killed a 28-year-old Marine combat veteran in October 2014.
Dustin Payne’s employer “failed to clean the water hauling tank thoroughly” prior to welding and cutting operations that killed him in North Dakota, OSHA investigators found, issuing one willful and four serious safety citations and proposing fines of $92,000.
“Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him,” said Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck. “This tragic incident was recognizable and preventable.”
Last year, OSHA placed a different subsidiary of Nabors Industries Ltd., a Bermuda-based company that maintains a corporate and executive office in Houston, on a list called the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. However, that subsidiary, Nabors Drilling USA, was later removed from the list, after Nabors went to court and successfully contested part of the violations related to a different North Dakota death.
Nabors spokesman Dennis Smith did not immediately return an e-mail from the Chronicle seeking comment. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before an independent commission.
A 2014 Houston Chronicle investigative series on oilfield accidents found that Nabors Drilling USA had reported more deaths than nearly all other oil and gas employers involved in drilling, well service or petroleum extraction businesses. From 2007-14, the Chronicle found that three Nabors sister companies – Nabors Drilling USA, Nabors Well Services Co. and Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. – together had reported at least 18 fatal accidents or worksite deaths to OSHA, according to a review of records from multiple states.
A previous analysis by the newspaper showed that Nabors Drilling and Nabors Well Services had reported more deaths in Texas than any other similar oilfield employer in the boom years from 2007-11.
Federal statistics, which run about two years behind, show that Texas and North Dakota have had some of the nation’s highest reported oilfield deaths. From 2008-2012, Texas reported 216 deaths and North Dakota reported 31 out of a national total of 545, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oilfield deaths declined in Texas in 2013 compared to a decade high of 65 in 2012. But OSHA reports oil and gas and construction-related fatal accidents in North Dakota have continued to rise – with 21 killed from January 2012 to July 2014.