NEW ORLEANS -- An explosion and fire on an oil production rig in the Gulf of Mexico in November 2012 was the result of a contractors failing to follow safety procedures, according to findings from a third-party investigator.
The explosion on the platform on Nov. 12, 2012 operated by Black Elk Energy left three people dead and other workers injured, and launched an investigation by Eyewitness News into the immigration practices of Filipino workers to the oil industry in south Louisiana.
ABSG Consulting found in the course of an eight-month investigation, workers welded piping connected to a tank containing crude oil, along with flammable vapors, not following Black Elk's safety practices.
The piping leading to the tank with the crude oil was not isolated before welding, which is required by Black Elk Energy safe work practices, according to ABSG. When the workers began welding, the flammable vapors ignited and then reached the first oil tank, followed by two connected tanks.
"The victims of this tragic accident last November are always in our thoughts and prayers," said John Hoffman, Black Elk's President and CEO. "We owe it to them and their families to understand how this accident happened. With this ABSG report, I am confident we now know the causes of this tragedy and how to prevent such an accident from ever happening again."
Black Elk Energy contracted with Grand Isle Shipyard to perform the construction work on the platform. Grand Isle, despite an agreement not use subcontractors, used workers in the explosion employed by DNR Offshore and Crewing Services, a subcontractor of Grand Isle.
According to ABSG, the use of the DNR Offshore subcontractor, without notifying Black Elk Energy, was one of several causes of the explosion. And the ABSG investigation found, Grand Isle and DNR Offshore employees failed to adequately follow safe work practices for performing welding and failed to stop work when unsafe conditions existed.
The workers involved in the explosion were from the Philippines.
"Filipino offshore oil workers have a deserved reputation for competence and professionalism," Hoffman said. "A serious issue in this case was Grand Isle's apparent failure to provide proper safety training and appropriate supervision."