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Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. failed to clean the water hauling tank thoroughly prior to welding and cutting operations and is now facing $97,200 in fines for one willful and four serious safety violations in the fatal explosion at its Williston, ND, facility, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Nabors is now in the OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Nabors is a Houston, TX-based company that operates the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet.

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Dustin Payne, 28, died five days after the Oct. 3 blast last year when he was welding inside a water hauling tank when vapors ignited. The Marine veteran with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to his credit is dead was the victim of a massive explosion that his Williston employer could have prevented.

“Dustin Payne and his fiancĂ©e should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him. This tragic incident was recognizable and preventable,” said Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck. “Containers of oil production water, even after emptied, have the potential to contain flammable vapors. Employers must develop and implement a stringent container cleaning program. No container should be assumed to be safe for welding operations.”

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The willful violation cites Nabors for failing to clean the container of oil residue thoroughly. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

OSHA inspectors noted the company failed to inspect welding areas prior to work; vent container spaces; separate oxygen and fuel-gas cylinders; and provide a fire watch, resulting in the issuance of four serious violations. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

In February, OSHA signed an alliance with both North Dakota and Montana, and the Montana-North Dakota chapter of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network, to foster safer and healthier working conditions in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota and Montana. The alliance’s goal is to reduce occupational exposure to physical and chemical hazards, which have resulted in numerous injuries and fatalities.

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