Man killed at oilfield facility near Orla, Texas. Company ordered to pay $40,000

After a man was killed at an oil and gas facility along the Texas-New Mexico state line last year the company was ordered to pay about $40,000 in fines stemming from the incident.

Production Waste Solutions, based in Andrews, Texas was issued the fines for six federal safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the U.S. Department of Labor on Wednesday resulting from the events in September 2022.

A worker fatally inhaled hydrogen sulfide (H2S) while working near a sump pit, records show, at the company’s Channing oil and gas waste treatment and disposal facility near Orla, Texas.

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Orla and Andrews are along West Texas’ border with southeast New Mexico, amid the busy oil and gas fields of the nation-leading Permian Basin.

The company did not respond to request for comment from the Carlsbad Current-Argus.

The worker, whose name was not released to the media, was skimming and suctioning out sludge water and oil byproducts from the pit, read an OSHA report, and died after being exposed to the toxic gas.

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Following an inspection Sept. 21, 2022, OSHA alleged the company violated federal standards involving worker exposure and its own protocols for responding to hazards.

The citations called for the issues to be resolved by April.

The report showed the company was accused of exposing employees to inhalation hazards and not training employees on hazards associated with H2S exposure, while failing to provide a quick body drench or eye flush station for workers in the immediate area where corrosive materials were present.

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Violations alleged also included the company’s reported failure to perform a hazard assessment to determine if personal protective equipment was needed, protecting employees from fall hazards of more than 4 feet and not protecting employees from electrified circuit, the report read.

Per federal statutes OSHA assessed a total of $39,064 in fines against Production Waste Solutions for the fatal incident.

The company had 15 days after the citations were issued to comply with the fines, request a formal conference with OSHA or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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OSHA Area Director Diego Alvarado said H2S is a dangerous pollutant that can be released during fossil fuel production, existing naturally in deposits of oil and gas.

“Hydrogen sulfide exists in oil and gas deposits, and it occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water and oil and gas wells, which is one of the reasons work in confined spaces is potentially dangerous,” Alvarado said.

“This terrible loss could have been prevented if Production Waste Solutions LLC had followed established safety procedures and provided federally required training and equipment.”

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H2S is commonly found in the oilfield, according to OSHA, along with sewer and wastewater treatment, agriculture and textile manufacturing.

It can also be found in pulp and paper processing, food processing, hot asphalt paving and mining, an OSHA report read.

Workers are at most risk when working in confined spacing lacking ventilation, the report read.

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The gas is also highly flammable and toxic at low concentrations, read the report, and is heavier than air, meaning it can build up in low-lying areas

It is known to have a rotten egg small. Exposure can cause nausea and headaches at low concentrations, worsening to loss of consciousness or instant death at higher levels, the report read.

Long-term effects could be damage to cardiovascular or respiratory systems, OSHA reported.

“Workers in oil and natural gas drilling and refining may be exposed because hydrogen sulfide may be present in oil and gas deposits and is a by-product of the desulfurization process of these fuels,” read the report.

“It can quickly, almost immediately, overcome unprepared workers, including rescue workers.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Deadly oilfield incident near Orla, Texas leads to $40K in fines