Death at Pennsylvania gas well blamed on human error, poor supervision

HARRISBURG Pa. Wed Aug 6, 2014 5:58pm EDT

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HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - An explosion at a Chevron Corp gas well in southwestern Pennsylvania that killed a man in February was caused by an inexperienced contract worker who was improperly supervised, according to a state report released on Wednesday.

Ian R. McKee, a 27-year-old native of Warren, Pennsylvania, was incinerated in the blast when he went to investigate the hissing sound of gas escaping at high pressure from the Lanco 7H well in Greene County, where he worked. The well burned for four days after the explosion.

The report by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection blamed the Feb. 11, 2014, disaster on errors by an inexperienced worker - not McKee - and the supervisor who failed to make sure a lock pin was tightened properly.

“We are reviewing the DEP reports,” said Kent S. Robertson, a spokesman for Chevron in San Ramon, California. “We look forward to continuing to work with DEP and OSHA in order to fully understand what happened. We are determined to prevent it from happening again.”

Neither the contract worker nor the supervisor are identified by name in the report. Both worked for Cameron International Corp., a Houston-based company that provides services related to bringing oil and gas wells into production and keeping them flowing properly.

McKee also worked for Cameron, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report said Chevron’s supervision of contractors at the well was spotty. A heavy workload and distractions for the company’s well site managers may have contributed to safety procedures breaking down, allowing an inexperienced and unqualified “greenhat” worker to carry out a critical task.

“The ‘greenhat’ was not supervised closely as he manipulated the lock pins,” the DEP report said. “[He] had not been trained on this procedure, or any other well procedure.”

Chevron’s well site manager that day “spent most of his time in the trailer attending to paperwork or other matters,” the report stated.

McKee, who lived in West Virginia at the time, was expecting a child with his girlfriend. His family has filed a lawsuit against Chevron.

(Reporting By Frank McGurty; editing by Andrew Hay)

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