Houston-based platform operator Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations is facing federal criminal charges tied to a November 2012 offshore construction accident that killed three works and seriously injured three others.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. of the Eastern District in Louisiana filed a six-count criminal complaint against the company last week.

Black Elk has been charged with five counts of violating federal health and safety laws and one count of violating the Clean Water Act, Houston Public Media said.

Further details about the charges have not been disclosed yet.

The accident occurred during welding work at a Gulf of Mexico oil production platform operated by Black Elk, located at the West Delta 32 Block, 17 miles south east of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

A third-party investigation commissioned by Black Elk concluded that “contractors failed to follow standard safety practices” while welding a pipeline.

The investigation, conducted by ABSG Consulting, found that “workers welded on piping that was connected to a tank containing crude oil and flammable oil vapors without following Black Elk Energy’s safety practices.”

Production was shut in at the time of the accident.

The investigation also found that the piping leading to the tank “had not been isolated and made safe” for welding activities as required by Black Elk Energy safe work practices.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the accident resulted in the discharge of pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico.

The agency identified a number of specific safety failures including: no hazard identification; conducting “hot work” without taking required safety precautions; failure to isolate hydrocarbons inside an oil tank; ineffective communication among contractors; and a climate in which workers feared retaliation if they raised safety concerns.

In the 2013 report, the BSEE said it concluded that “regulations were not followed” and said it would pursue enforcement actions.

Renato Dominguez, a worker who was seriously injured in the accident, filed suit against the company in 2013 seeking unspecified damages.

Dominguez, 53, was working as a pipe-fitter at the production site and is one of several Filipino workers who were injured by the explosion.


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