Aug 25, 2011 12:05 AM by Jim Hummel

New Iberia Company Cited For Safety Violations Following Worker's Death

Estis Well Service LLC, of New Iberia is disputing various safety violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), following the death of an employee back in March.

30 year old Skye Sonnier was killed while working on a barge in Iberville Parish, when a land-based portable rig, tipped over and crushed him to death.  Estis Well Service was issued one willfull and eight serious safety violations following an OSHA investigation.

"This company willfully jeopardized the safety of its employees," said Dorinda False with OSHA.  "If the company had followed OSHA and industry standards, this tragic accident might have been avoided," she said.

OSHA released a statement, explaining the violations:
The willful violation was for failing to ensure employees were protected from falls while working on an elevated drill floor by providing rails or personal fall arrest systems. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

The serious violations include failing to utilize confined space permits; provide an emergency escape line or other form of emergency egress for employees working on the monkeyboard (a platform on which a derrickhand stands to handle the top end of a pipe as it is run into, or out of, the drill hole); utilize industry-approved methods to anchor or brace a well rig; ensure the use of personal protective equipment such as fire retardant clothing; and provide a competent, qualified person on the rig to administer first aid in the event of an emergency. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.


"We stand behind our safety record," said Johnny Estis.  "Based on those proposed citations, none of them had anything to do with the accident.

Estis says his company has never been cited by OSHA and KATC could not find any citations against them in OSHA records immediately available for the past 3 years.  Estis says the company plans to formally appeal OSHA's findings.

"They've been lucky in the past, but now they've killed somebody's son," said Skye's father, Teddy Sonnier.

"I've been in the oilfield for many years, I know accidents happen, this was not an accident, this was gross negligence, they killed my son," he said.

Sonnier has been talking to the Iberville Parish District Attorney about possibly pursuing criminal charges against Estis Well Service.


Jim Hummel


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