PLAQUEMINES, La. -- Following up on a damning investigation report last week, federal offshore regulators issued 41 formal violations against Black Elk Energy and its contractors for their role in causing an explosion last year that killed three welders on a platform off Plaquemines Parish.
Three Filipino nationals – Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera – were killed by the explosion on Black Elk’s West Delta 32 E Platform on Nov. 16, 2012. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued its investigation report Nov. 4, finding that Black Elk and contractors Compass Engineering and Consultants, Grand Isle Shipyards/DNR and Wood Group PSN failed to follow their own basic safety plans.
The investigation concluded that Black Elk failed in its supervisory role and its contractors communicated poorly about whether flammable gas had been properly purged from tanks and pipes before the workers started cutting with blow torches.
The report states that Wood Group’s supervisor left a lower-level employee without proper training to sign and approve a welding permit to cover the entire platform, rather than each welding location as rules require. Then, that employee turned the job over to a Grand Isle Shipyards supervisor based on a faulty understanding from a Compass consultant that all areas had been purged and were ready for hot work.
In fact, nobody had cleared the areas for hot work. The report describes how gas detectors that were supposed to be used to check the hot-work areas were not functioning properly and were left in their charging stations, but when workers complained, their Grand Isle supervisor told workers not to forget about it.
“According to the DNR workers, the GIS/DNR supervisor instructed the construction workers to hang the non-functioning gas detector up like a ‘decoration’ so everyone could at least see that they had one,” the report says.
The most serious violations still were issued to Black Elk, which is the lease-holder and ultimately responsible. Black Elk got 12 violations, or Incidents of Non-Compliance. Wood Group received 11 INCs and Compass and Grand Isle Shipyards got nine each.