An investigation by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) blamed operator Black Elk Energy and its contractors for the accident in November 2012 at an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed three workers.

The report from the US federal agency found that a lack of proper safety precautions for offshore welding, as well as an absence of proper communication among contractors, resulted in a blast on the platform operated by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations.

According to BSEE, the incident resulted in the deaths of Ellroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera, and discharged pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico.

The report found that the fire at the Black Elk platform was sparked by workers employed by Grand Isle Shipyard and a subcontractor to weld a pipeline, not knowing flammable vapours were inside.

It was noted that proper safety steps were not taken by contractors on the platform to make sure no hydrocarbons were present in piping or the air before welding took place during repairs to a facility on West Delta Block 32.

BSEE director Brian Salerno said: "These failures reflect a disregard for the safety of workers on the platform and are the antithesis of the type of safety culture that should guide decision-making in all offshore oil and gas operations."

The investigation panel, comprised of professionals from BSEE and the United States Coast Guard, found the deaths were caused by various decisions, actions and failures by the company and contractors retained by it, while conducting construction operations.

Salerno requests that all operators with personnel at manned offshore facilities need to discuss the events before the end of 2013 about the reasons that led to this explosion and ensure their operations are safe.

BSEE said it will take appropriate enforcement measures against companies involved and will request for the American Petroleum Institute (API) to aid it in issuing safety standards for work that are consistent with the industry’s best practices.

Image: Fire on a platform operated by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations in 2012. Photo courtesy of num_skyman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.