Saturday, March 12, 2005

It's Alright, He Got Fried, And He Died, Cocaine

Sometimes you think you've seen it all, and then...

Big Dog Drilling company was fined $100,500 by OSHA for the September 1, 2004 electrocution death of Cody Hall of Midland Texas. Hall died when he touched an energized mobile trailer that had come into contact with a damaged electrical line that should have been buried.

But no, says Big Dog. Hall was actually killed by cocaine that was found in his blood during the autopsy, according to Fred Rabe, Big Dog safety manager.

On the issue of Hall’s death, Rabe said he believes he was not electrocuted and that the results of an autopsy prove it.

Rabe, who has a copy of the autopsy, said Hall “induced” his own death through illegal drug use in the hours leading up to the accident.

Although the autopsy report found "circumstances and scene of the accident were consistent with a low-voltage electrocution with rescuers receiving a shock upon retrieving the body," Rabe claims that
“We’ve got other things, but I can’t discuss it.” Rabe attributed Hall’s death to Hall himself.

"At some point in time, employees have to take responsibility for their own well-being," Rabe said.

“When you do drugs and do not use the equipment for you to use for your safety and you get bit — we can’t have a babysitter watching every minute and every move that an employee does.”
It's not clear how the cocaine actually killed Hall. Perhaps it made him especially vulnerable to electricity? Or made him forget to check to make sure the trailer wasn't electrofied?

OSHA says that Big Dog was in violation of the law.
OSHA Lubbock Area Director Richard Tapio said the electrical cable leading to the trailer should have been buried 18 inches to 24 inches deep.

Tapio cited the National Electric Code as the standard on which OSHA regulations are based.
Otherwise Big Dog is an upstanding corporate citizen. Except for the Jan. 8 workplace death of Odessan Brian Harrison, a Big Dog rig hand, currently under investigation by OSHA, who died after falling 90 feet from a Big Dog rig in rural Upton County. And then there's the November 2004 explosion at a Big Dog drilling site in Pecos County, currently being investigated by OSHA. Oh, and let's not overlook the June 2001 $1,925 penalty against Big Dog for an improperly maintained hoist that exposed employees to "overhead falling material hazards."

And then there's the fact that Harrison's brother-in-law quit after one day of work for Big Dog because the job was too dangerous:
The week before Harrison’s death, his brother-in-law, Fidel Flores, went to work for Big Dog but quit at the end of his first day.

He had a job with another company, but Flores, 22, needed the extra income. Big Dog hired him to operate the drilling tongs.

Flores said he worked one eight-hour shift and then quit, disillusioned about the strenuous nature of the job, the irregular hours and long commute to the drilling site.

"I was like, maybe I’m going to like it. It was too dangerous for me,"1 Flores said.
Flores said he received no training before he was allowed on the rig and had no prior experience operating tongs.

"I went on there just straight-on to perform,” he said. “They told me this is what you do, and I was learning hands-on."
Sounds to me like the Big Dog needs to be fixed.