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Nabors blocks OSHA investigation at downed rig

Although officials at Nabors Industries are saying nobody was injured during an accident Tuesday at rig B-15 north of Belfield, Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials want to make sure and were in the process of obtaining a warrant to do just that Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, Eric Brooks, assistant director at the Bismarck OSHA office, said his investigators had yet to be granted access to the site.

Following the accident, Nabors Drilling -- a subsidiary of Nabors Industries -- management exercised its right under Section 8 of the OSH Act of 1970 to block OSHA's entry into the rig site until it obtained a warrant.

"We don't know what happened or if there were any injuries because we haven't been there yet," said Brooks late Thursday afternoon. "We're in the process of obtaining a warrant through the U.S. District Court of North Dakota and we should have that today."

Brooks said the action to block OSHA's immediate entrance into the site was "not that common," though Nabors Corporate Services Director of Development and Investor Relations Denny Smith said from Houston that requiring OSHA to get a warrant is standard procedure.

"We have over 400 rigs in the U.S. and this would be standard following an accident at any of them," Smith said. "It's simply our policy. Nobody was injured -- which is the most important thing -- and we will have an investigation into what the cause was."

The tall derrick on the Nabors rig, which is located just off Highway 85 a few miles north of Belfield, tipped over Tuesday, causing quite a stir among motorists driving past. Smith said Wednesday that there was no environmental damage and no release of fluids.

Smith said the rig was being moved to another location and that the crew will remain on site for the foreseeable future. It is unknown whether the accident was caused by a mechanical failure or human error, Smith said.

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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