A Farmington trucking company has been fined more than $10,000 for training and procedural failures that led to the death of one of its workers at a natural gas well site earlier this year in southern La Plata County.
According to state records, Randy Yellowman was employed by Overright Trucking Inc., which was contracted by Denver-based Catamount Energy Partners LLC. On Jan. 2, Yellowman was alone at a well site about 6 miles west of Ignacio when an explosion killed the 45-year-old man from Shiprock.
A preliminary investigation indicated Yellowman was transferring produced water – a byproduct of oil and gas extraction – from one of Catamount’s water tanks to his truck when the explosion occurred, Rusty Kelly, senior vice president for Catamount Energy, said at the time.
Because the explosion occurred on lands owned by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the investigation was led by the tribe. Spokeswoman Lindsay Box wrote in an email that the tribe “has no comment at this time.”
A separate investigation was headed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, which looks into workplace deaths.
OSHA last week issued Overright Trucking several citations totaling more than $10,000 in fines for company failures that led to Yellowman’s death.
A representative with Overright Trucking said company officials were not available for comment Monday.
OSHA said Overright Trucking employees were exposed to fire and/or explosive hazards when their training did not include measures they could take to protect themselves.
“The employer did not ensure that employees were equipped with gas monitoring and detecting equipment while engaged in the process of transferring production water from the site tank to the vacuum truck,” OSHA wrote in its report.
Nor were employees aware of the potential of explosions, OSHA said, and the pump truck was not grounded to dissipate the potential buildup of static electricity.
OSHA also said that Overright Trucking provided employees with safety guidelines for water that was a byproduct of crude oil production, not natural gas.
“Feasible and acceptable means to correct these hazards would be to train water truck operators to ground and bond the trucks during the extraction process … and to monitor operators’ activities to ensure ground and bonding is being employed,” OSHA wrote.
OSHA fined Overright Trucking $10,608 for the citations, though the company has the opportunity to challenge it.
An OSHA representative last week said the investigation found no citations were warranted for Catamount Energy. Kelly did not respond to requests for comment.
OSHA has yet to release the full investigation report into the incident, and it is unclear when those reports will be available.
It is also unclear how many fatalities there have been in La Plata County for workers in the oil and gas industry as the state does not track it. According to The Durango Herald archives, the last death was in 2012 when a blast at a BP American Production Co.-owned gas compression station near Bayfield killed one worker, Mancos resident Randy Mathews, and injured two others.
Attempts to reach Yellowman’s family have been unsuccessful, but according to his obituary in the Farmington Daily-Times, Yellowman was born in Shiprock, and most recently was living in Nenahnezad, a community on the Navajo Nation between Farmington and Shiprock.
According to its website, Overright Trucking is a water hauling company, mostly for oil and gas operations, that has been in business since 1991.