Safety first

While implementation of a system such as the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series OHSAS may or may not have directly affected outcome of this incident, it could have encouraged and facilitated the identification and correction of deficiencies that served as contributing causes.

Safety first year old wireline operator trainee died on January 12,from head and neck trauma received at an oil well when he was struck by a bull plug, needle valve and pressure gauge assembly that had been blown out of a wellhead connection.

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When the well operator opened the wellhead gate valve, the bull plug, needle valve and gauge assembly blew out of the connection and struck the Safety first in the head and neck inflicting fatal injuries. The improperly threaded connection evidences a lack of understanding regarding the equipment, the task, or the hazards presented by the use of the wrong fitting in the wellhead connection.

The responsible employer on multi-employer worksites should monitor Safety first safety activities performed by contractor employees, particularly personnel whose background and skills may be unknown or uncertain.

The Oklahoma Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation OKFACE is an occupational fatality surveillance project to determine the epidemiology of all fatal work-related injuries and identify and recommend prevention strategies. The well operator was onsite to coordinate the activities and operate wellhead equipment.

Safety first wireline crew trainee was standing next to his crew truck approximately 15 feet from the wellhead in direct line with the wellhead connection Figure 1. The force of the impact knocked the trainee into the wireline operator who had been standing a few feet away.

However, only the crown of the threads were in contact with each other and none of the threads were actually engaged. The responsible employer should also exercise diligence to ensure that contracted personnel are performing their work properly and safely in accordance with the operational plan.

The insertion of mismatched threads on the bull plug, needle valve and gauge assembly into the wellhead flange was an underlying cause of the fatal incident. Additionally, training in hazard recognition and control should be provided to all workers who work in proximity of wells. The improper connection was reportedly identifiable by visual or physical inspection by an experienced worker.

Training should address the potential for blowouts and should provide clear directions to remain outside the area directly in front of the wellhead connection. These fatality investigations serve to prevent fatal work-related injuries in the future by studying the work environment, the worker, the task the worker was performing, the tools the worker was using, the energy exchange resulting in injury, and the role of management in controlling how these factors interact.

After the incident occurred, the well operator called and an ambulance crew was dispatched from the nearest town, approximately 10 miles from the site of the incident. The responsible employer should communicate the nature of the work to be performed and the hazards associated with each aspect of the work an existing requirement under certain OSHA regulations such as Hazard Communication and Permit-Required Confined Spaces.

safety first

INTRODUCTION A year old wireline operator trainee for an oil well wireline service contractor died on January 12,from head and neck injuries received when he was struck by a bull plug, needle valve and pressure gauge assembly that had been blown out of a wellhead connection.

At the time of the incident, the victim was standing approximately 15 feet away from the wellhead near the wireline truck where he and the wireline operator were changing wireline tools while the well operator and an oilfield chemical service representative were attempting to gauge the well pressure.

The fatality may have been prevented if the gauge assembly was checked to assess its reliability before opening the well valve. The victim was later transported by helicopter to a trauma center for more advanced care, but he was pronounced dead approximately eight hours later.

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