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Fracking company cited for on-the-job injury, death in 2014 blast

Following up on our Nov. 19, 2014 post about a fracking site blast ("1 killed, 2 injured at work in Colorado fracking accident," OSHA's investigation is complete. The company was issued with a $7,000 fine. The deadly accident occurred in last November when workers attempted to heat a frozen pipe that had formed an ice blockage. A 36-year-old worker lost his life, and two others -- ages 48 and 28 -- each suffered an on-the-job injury.

In addition to its failure to provide a safe working environment, the company allowed workers to be in a red zone while high-pressure equipment was in operation. As the name indicates, a red zone is an area posing great danger where workers must not be allowed when fracking pumps are operational as an explosion can cause fatal injuries. Despite the known risk, the three workers were in a red zone area, carrying out another potentially dangerous action of trying to heat the pipes.

OSHA says operational pumps are pressurized as high as 3,500 pounds per square inch, and any rupture can cause a deadly struck-by accident. Initial reports at the time of the blast speculated that the one worker was killed by a stream of pressurized water. However, it was ultimately determined that a valve dislodged when the pipe ruptured, striking the worker's head. This was reported to have caused his death.

OSHA determined that frozen pipes must always be thawed naturally, as the use of heat sources creates extremely dangerous conditions. No worker in Colorado must be expected to work in conditions that pose life-threatening hazards. Fortunately, any worker who has suffered an on-the-job injury -- or a family who has lost a loved one -- will be entitled to pursue financial relief from the workers' compensation insurance fund. Benefits paid may relieve financial burdens at a difficult time when unanticipated bills have to be paid.

Source: thedenverchannel.com, "OSHA fines Halliburton $7K in fracking site blast that killed 1 worker, injured 2 in Weld County", Alan Gathright, May 26, 2015

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