Oil industry employee dies in workplace incident at Prudhoe Bay

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Prudhoe Bay’s Central Gas Facility, viewed from the Lisburne Production Center on Friday, May 22, 2015. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

A worker was killed at a Prudhoe Bay facility on Wednesday, the second reported fatality in the North Slope oil industry in recent weeks, and the fourth in a little over a year’s time.

The string of workplace deaths represent an unusually high number of fatalities in a relatively short period of time for oil field operations in the region, federal workplace safety records indicate.

The name of the most recent victim has not been released. The employee worked for Chosen Construction, an oil field services provider with a shop in Deadhorse that was the site of the first in the series of fatalities, 14 months ago. Deadhorse is the industrial town serving the North Slope oil fields.

A spokesman with Hilcorp, the operator of Prudhoe Bay, confirmed the most recent death in an email on Thursday.

“We are saddened to report that an employee of Chosen Construction Inc. was fatally injured on June 5, 2024, at the Central Compression Plant at Prudhoe Bay,” Luke Miller, a spokesperson with Hilcorp Energy, said in the email.

“We feel this loss deeply and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and Chosen Construction’s employees,” Miller said. “All work was immediately stopped, the site was secured, and the appropriate agencies were notified. Hilcorp and Chosen Construction are working closely with the agencies to conduct a full investigation.”

Jason Daniels, president of Chosen Construction, said the incident is under investigation.

After the workplace fatalities on the Slope, he said companies across the North Slope are reviewing their operations.

“My prayers are with the family,” he said.

“I have no further comment until we get this thing figured out,” he said. “Out of respect for the family and the coworkers and friends, I just don’t want to put anything out there, other than it’s under investigation.”

He declined to provide the age or name of the employee.

Alaska Occupational Safety and Health is “in the process of investigating the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate occurrence,” said Dale Williamson, chief of enforcement for the group, in an email.

Williamson said he could share no additional information at the moment.

Federal workplace safety regulators said the state would likely lead the investigation into the recent death, which occurred on state land.

4 deaths in 14 months

Three of the four deaths over the last 14 months occurred at facilities operated by Hilcorp, the operator of the Prudhoe Bay oil field that took over BP’s Alaska assets in 2020. Hilcorp Alaska, a top Alaska oil producer, has been repeatedly penalized for operational violations in Alaska.

None of the victims worked for Hilcorp. They worked for companies that provide oil field support, though state officials have said one victim took direction from Hilcorp.

The first of the four deaths occurred at the Chosen Construction shop in Deadhorse in April 2023, when a 23-year-old man died from head injuries after he fell on an icy surface while unloading pipe from a truck, according to information provided by state officials.

The victim was employed by Worley Alaska, a construction and oil field service company, but he was embedded at Hilcorp and took direction from the oil producer, state officials have said. The state investigated that incident, and did not issue fines against Worley, according to federal records.

Alaska workplace safety officials investigated Chosen Construction for that incident, federal records show. The case remains open. Safety officials have issued about $23,000 in fines against Chosen Construction in that case, including for citations involving personal protective equipment and head protection, the records show.

Hilcorp also has been fined about $22,000 for citations related to that incident, federal records show. That case involving Hilcorp also remains open. Those citations also involve personal protective equipment and head protection.

The state warned at the time that companies, to prevent similar accidents, should implement a comprehensive health and safety program that includes the use of personal protective equipment.

The two other fatalities took place at facilities owned and operated by Hilcorp.

In June last year, a 27-year-old man who worked for Halliburton died at the Northstar oil field after he was struck by a rod that ejected from a wellhead valve, a fatality report from the federal agency shows.

The federal workplace safety agency has issued fines against Halliburton totaling about $70,000 in that case, but Halliburton is challenging the citations, according to the report. The Northstar oil field is located partly in federal waters off Alaska’s coast.

A case against Hilcorp was also opened in that incident at the Northstar oil field, two days after the Halliburton case was opened, federal records show. Hilcorp was fined $17,000.

A 62-year-old MagTec Alaska employee died in May. He was struck by a front-end loader while walking at a job site at the Milne Point field. The state has launched an investigation into the incident.

The deaths appear to be the first workplace fatalities since December 2018, when a 36-year-old man died at the Milne Point field after a 700-pound section of drilling pipe struck his head, according to media reports and records from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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