Offshore InjuryBlog

Black Elk Charged with Multiple Safety Violations for 2012 Explosion

Back in November 2012, a tragic offshore fire and explosion took the lives of three Filipino workers and resulted in serious injuries to several others. The Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations accident in the Gulf of Mexico rocked the offshore industry, bringing up memories of the devastating BP oil spill and explosion. Arnold & Itkin has provided representation to one of the men injured in the deadly explosion, standing by his side throughout all legal proceedings.

Now, three years later, Black Elk is finally being held accountable by federal prosecutors. The company has been charged in a six-count bill with multiple violations of safety standards that allegedly led up to the accident. The bill includes many similar findings that a panel of oil and gas experts presented back in 2013, which found that the disaster was caused by numerous negligent decisions and actions made by Black Elk and their subcontractors.

Investigation Indicates Serious Safety Violations

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Coast Guard provided experts for the panel. These experts discovered a concerning number of violations, failures, and negligent actions.

Some of the most serious findings the panel revealed included:

  • Inadequate training for welding crew
  • Lack of planning and communication
  • Poor supervision and training for crew
  • Overall lack of safety throughout operations
  • Confusion on whether pipes were empty or contained oil
  • Failure to have functioning gas detectors near platform welding areas

The investigation revealed that platform’s oil storage tanks were thought to be empty but were actually never emptied out prior to welding work taking place. This resulted in vapors in the tank igniting and causing a series of devastating explosions.

Federal Prosecutors Take Action

After this 2013 investigation, the BSEE encouraged sanctions to be issued against Black Elk and several other companies involved in the platform work. The 2015 charges include five safety violations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and one violation of the Clean Water Act. BSEE officials believed the violations demonstrated a disappointing lack of importance placed on worker safety by Black Elk and their subcontractors.

The Houston Chronicle published a detail report of the story that includes other findings, such as the disturbing news that a Houston man was found guilty for lying about testing crucial equipment. Another detail reveals reckless behavior by inexperienced contractors. For more information about the events that led up the Black Elk incident, read the story here

For the sake of our client and the other men and family members impacted by the 2012 Black Elk explosion, Arnold & Itkin hopes justice is finally served in this case.

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