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OSHA Cites Fracking Company for Confined Space Worker Fatality

OSHA has issued nine serious safety violations to First Choice Energy of Minot, North Dakota, following an employee fatality after the worker was caught in the agitator of an oil-field vacuum truck storage tank.

According to OSHA’s press release, five of the nine citations stem from violations of the confined space entry requirements for general industry, 29 CFR 1910.146, including lack of atmospheric testing, permitting, signs, and emergency response procedures. Confined spaces are those spaces that have limited openings or restricted means for entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy. Examples of confined spaces include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines.

Other citations according to OSHA’s press release include “not properly protecting workers from open pit fall hazards, lack of energy control and lockout/tagout procedures and equipment, failing to conduct annual inspections of energy control procedures and to train workers on such procedures.”

The March 2013 worker fatality comes on the heels of an OSHA safety “stand down” initiative in February and March 2013 directed at oil and gas field workers in the Bakken Basin of Montana and North Dakota. According to OSHA, the fatality rate for the oil and gas industry was 28.8 per 100,000 workers, more than seven times higher than the rate for all industries. North Dakota has the second highest rate of work-related fatalities in the nation and is the second most active drilling state, after Texas.

In 2012, OSHA also issued a Hazard Alert for worker exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing operations.