Advertisement

Firms Fined $94,000 in Deaths of 3 Workers : Accidents: Cal/OSHA cites 15 violations of employee safety rules at defunct oil well in Seacliff where men died of toxic gases.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

More than $94,000 in fines have been levied against two oil companies in connection with the deaths of three workers at a Seacliff oil field last August, state safety officials said Monday.

Pride Petroleum Service Co. and Schlumberger Wireline and Testing were assessed $45,375 and $48,750 in fines, respectively, by Cal/OSHA, the state’s industrial safety agency, for a total of 15 violations of worker safety regulations.

All the violations were classified as “serious” and all but three of the fines were for the maximum amount allowed by law, said John Duncan, Cal/OSHA deputy director of communications.

“This was a terrible accident,” Duncan said. “There are very well-defined regulatory procedures to follow during operations like these and clearly they were not followed.”

Advertisement

On Aug. 10, three Pride Petroleum employees were working on a defunct oil well when they were overcome by toxic gases.

The workers--Ronald Johnson, Jason Hoskins and Sean Harris--all died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to toxicology results made public in September by Ventura County coroner’s officials.

Johnson died at the scene, and Hoskins and Harris died at a Ventura hospital a short time after the noon incident. Johnson and Hoskins were Ventura residents, and Harris lived in Oxnard.

Four other workers at the site were injured by breathing the colorless, odorless gas that is typically found in automobile emissions or from other sources of combustion. The four workers have since recovered, officials said.

Advertisement

Mike Furrow, a vice president at Pride Petroleum’s offices in Bakersfield, would not return phone calls for comment. Pride is based in Dallas.

Henry Cloud, manager of the Schlumberger’s health, safety and environment department, said only that the Louisiana-based company plans to appeal the fines.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Vintage Petroleum, the firm that owns the oil field about 10 miles north of Ventura, was not fined by the state watchdog agency.

Cal/OSHA’s Duncan said that safety investigators still do not know the source of the deadly carbon monoxide or how it got into the well where the workers were trying to shut off a line that was gushing an oily mix of water and petroleum.

Advertisement

*

Specifically, the state cited the companies for failing to ventilate the area where the men were working, for allowing employees to enter and remain in a space with airborne contaminants, for not ensuring that the workers were wearing protective respiratory equipment, and for not testing the environment in the well to determine whether it was free of airborne contamination.

The companies also were cited for not ensuring that employees were wearing approved safety belts with attached lifelines, for not providing other employees to act as “standbys” with respiratory equipment, and for failing to provide employees with protective respiratory equipment to be used during rescues.

Finally, the companies were fined for failing to provide a safe means of entry and exit to the area, for failing to train employees in what to do in case of emergency and for failing to evacuate exposed employees from an imminent hazard.

Advertisement

Schlumberger--which provides oil-field equipment and crews--received an additional citation for failing to ensure that all employees were trained in the need and use of respirators at the work site.

Cal Hoskins, Jason Hoskins’ father, said Monday that the fines assessed against the companies will never make up for the loss of his son.

“Those fines do not mean anything to these companies,” said Hoskins, 47, who himself works in the oil production business. “Nothing will bring Jason back. But if any good can come out of this, it will be to get the companies to operate safely so that no one else has to die or suffer from injuries.”

Pride and Schlumberger have 15 days to appeal the fines. Duncan said that only the categories of “willful serious” or “repeat serious” carry higher fines or penalties than those announced against the two oil companies.

Advertisement

Last week, Cal/OSHA cited Rockwell International for four “willful, serious” violations of worker safety regulations after an explosion killed two employees at the company’s Rocketdyne Division near Simi Valley last year. The company was fined a total of $202,500.


Advertisement
Advertisement