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Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Accident Report Detail

Accident: 200550481 - Employee Dies Of Burns In Fire At Oil Well

Accident: 200550481 -- Report ID: 0625700 -- Event Date: 09/08/1998
InspectionOpen DateSICEstablishment Name
30199269909/16/19981381S.H.Loe Oil Corp
On the afternoon of September 8, 1998, Employee #1, a welder, and a helper were capping abandoned oil wells near Jena, LA. They started work on Shapiro #6 WXF RB SU29 in the morning and had successfully completed that site. They then moved their equipment approximately one-half mile to Shapiro #1, where they resumed work after lunch. They found that Shapiro #1 had been plugged with cement at some undetermined date and then capped. A 6 ft by 10 ft by 8 to 10 ft deep excavation had been dug around the well, and Employee #1 entered the pit to cut the pipe at 3 ft below ground level. He was unaware that oil had seeped around the plug and into the area where he was going to cut. Employee #1 was using an acetylene torch to make the cut when residual oil sprayed out of the pipe. His torch ignited the spewing oil and also his clothes, which were covered in oil. Employee #1 sustained fatal burns. Photos taken of the pit around the well showed that a considerable amount of oil had seeped out of the pipe after it had been cut. It was estimated by the employer that the section of pipe had approx 1.5 psi of hydrostatic pressure in it, which caused the oil to spray out. It is possible that the cement plug may have been applied with substandard or an inadequate amount of material, which allowed oil to seep past it. The large amount of standing oil in the pit around the well pipe when it was cut by Employee #1 indicated that it had been inadequately plugged and leaking for some time. The employer had already completed plugging over 100 abandoned wells, without no apparent problems. In this case, the employer had not utilized any of the methods listed in API Bulletin E3 to verify that the plug had been set correctly, nor had it used a vacuum truck to assure that all liquids and gases had been removed before the pipe was cut, capped, and buried.
Keywords: leak, excavation, pipe plug, acetylene torch, flammable liquid, work rules, fire, oil well drilling, oil rig, cutting and burning
Employee # Inspection Age Sex Degree Nature Occupation
1 301992699 Fatality Burn/Scald(Heat) Welders and cutters

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