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OSHA fines well service company after Dickinson man's death

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Friday released the findings of its investigation into the 2012 workplace death of a Dickinson man at a well site near Killdeer.

Terry Metcalf died the morning of Aug. 6 after falling approximately 50 feet from a drilling rig basket. The OSHA findings state that Metcalf's employer, Big Sky Well Service, received citations for well control operations, fall protection and personal protective equipment, said OSHA's Bismarck Area Director Eric Brooks.

The citations, which list abatement recommendations for the company, cumulated in $14,700 worth of fines for Big Sky. The company has requested an informal conference, which takes place Feb. 1, to discuss the infractions. The OSHA decision was rendered Jan. 8, although Brooks said confirmation was needed from Big Sky before the results could be released.

"They had 15 working days to make a decision whether or not to contest our findings," Brooks said. "As of right now, these are allegations."

Metcalf, 52 at the time of his death, had worked for Big Sky for 12 years, said his mother, Barbara Allen, who said she was surprised by the findings.

"It's very shocking," Allen said Friday morning. "This has really thrown me for a loop. If this is true, I feel like my son died for nothing. It's upsetting."

Allen said her son was very safety conscious in general, but that he didn't talk much about his job. Allen said she received a letter from OSHA this week explaining its findings.

"He'd worked out there for so many years and was so careful," Allen said. "I don't remember him saying much of anything about work, though. It was just 'another day in the Oil Patch.' I really didn't expect this from the report. I didn't think something like this could happen. This entire process has taken a long time and taken a lot out of me. I just want it to be over."

Metcalf was born in Glendive, Mont., and graduated from Beach High School before going to work in the oil fields. U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson Rhonda Burke said there are no records of any Big Sky violations in the past 10 years.

A call to Big Sky owner Charles Fulton was not returned as of Friday afternoon. There were 24 workplace fatalities in North Dakota in 2012, according to OSHA records.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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