Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Department of Labor Logo OSHA News Release - Region 6

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.


Oct. 23, 2014


Ensign United States Drilling continues to expose workers
to potential injury or death during oil well explosions

HOUSTON — Ensign United States Drilling (S.W.) Inc. was cited with two repeat safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to possible hazards during oil well explosions. The inspection was part of OSHA's Regional Emphasis Program for the Upstream Oil and Gas Well Industry*. The repeat violations were cited for failing to correct deficiencies found during a 2011 investigation. Proposed penalties total $65,000.

OSHA's Houston North Area Office initially conducted an oil and gas inspection in November 2011 and cited the employer in January 2012 for an obstruction in the path of the emergency escape line. Also known as the Geronimo Line, it is a zip line that runs from the top of the oil well to the ground and allows workers to quickly evacuate a well in emergency situations. The company was fined $13,000 for those violations.

"Ensign United States Drilling failed to abate previous violations while continuing to expose its workers to oilfield injuries or possibly death from hazards that could be easily corrected. This obvious disregard for their workers' safety and health is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said David Doucet, OSHA's area director in Houston North.

The repeat violations were cited for obstruction of and damage to the Geronimo Line, which was blocked by a rack of pipes and contained four knots that could stop workers' full slide to safety during a fire or explosion. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

As part of this program, OSHA investigated the deaths of 162 upstream oil and gas industry workers who died while performing duties, such as drilling, exploration and servicing, from 2007 to 2012 in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and those worksites in New Mexico that are under federal jurisdiction. Because OSHA has no national programs dealing with this industry, this regional program was designed to address issues regarding fatalities and catastrophes in the aforementioned states.

Ensign United States Drilling is headquartered in Dallas, and it has an additional office in Denver. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Houston North Area Office, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Houston North Area Office at 936-760-3800 or its Houston South Area Office at 281-286-0583.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit


Media Contacts:

Diana Petterson, 972-850-4710,

Juan J. Rodríguez, 972-850-4709,

Release Number: 14-1920-DAL

U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

* Accessibility Assistance Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.