Drilling company fined for injury

Nabors Alaska Drilling failed to protect safety of worker, officials say

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2006

ANCHORAGE - An oil-well drilling company has been fined for three alleged violations stemming from a worker injury at the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

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Nabors Alaska Drilling Inc. is contesting the $18,900 fine according to an official with the state Occupational Safety and Health office. Company officials in Anchorage could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

At the time of the March 25 accident, Nabors rig 14E was drilling an exploratory well for FEX LP, a Canadian oil company. The drill site was in the petroleum reserve about 45 miles east of Barrow.

According to a state investigative report, at about 2 a.m. that day rig workers began trying to clear ice from an auger that carried drill bit cuttings down a trough running between two rooms on the rig.

Veetoune Mokhantha, a 19-year-old roustabout, or unskilled worker on the rig, was asked by another worker to turn on a steam hose, according to the report. Mokhantha left what was known as the pit room, and the other worker removed a floor grate over the auger and began thawing the clog with a water hose, the report says.

The grate was within several feet of a door into the room.

The supervisor tried to warn Mokhantha of the open grate, but the roustabout stepped into the hole, the state report says.

The auger, which was still operating, grabbed his legs, pulling him into and down the trough running beneath the floor.

Mokhantha's left leg was severed below the knee and the other leg sustained "massive trauma," according to the report.

Nabors was uncooperative during the investigation, failing to turn over requested documents and photos and failing to help find witnesses, wrote Patrick Laakso, a state safety officer. Laakso said the company sometimes cited attorney-client privilege.

Nabors was cited with three violations, each carrying a $6,300 fine.

State officials said the company failed to protect worker safety as a result of inadequate or ineffective training in safeguarding machinery during maintenance work.

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