Violations Unearthed Following Union Parish Oil Well Explosion

by | Apr 14, 2024 | Explosion, Oil and Gas Accident, Oil and Gas Incidents, Oil Refinery Injuries, Workplace Explosion, Workplace Injuries, Wrongful Death

On June 20, 2023, the community of Union Parish, Louisiana, was violently disrupted by a catastrophic oil well explosion. The explosion occurred at a well operated by Hargraves Production LLC. Initial reports indicated that a combination of factors led to the disaster, including equipment malfunction and inadequate safety protocols. As investigators delved deeper into the incident, a troubling pattern of negligence began to emerge.

The oil well explosion claimed one life and injured at least three others. It also unveiled a distressing narrative of regulatory violations and safety oversights within the oil industry.

In the article below, the oil and gas injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide an overview of the incident in Union Parish. We also provide insight into the violations that were found, and the alarming truth that the explosion may have been preventable.

What Happened at the Union Parish Oil Well?

In June 2023, six contractors were hired to clean out the storage tanks at the Hargraves Production oil well site in Union Parish. The work was part of an effort to bring the site current to standards with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The northernmost tank reportedly had around five feet of crude oil residue built up.

One of the contractors went on top of the tank to conduct work. While using a grinder to cut a pipe, sparks ignited and the tank exploded. The contractor working on top of the tank did not survive his injuries. At least three other workers were injured and taken to nearby hospitals. The explosion resulted in road closures and hazmat deployment to the scene.

Oil Well Explosion Follows Trail of Violations

In the months following the oil well explosion, investigators sought to identify the cause or any contributing factors. What they found was a series of violations and hazards.

One of the key violations uncovered by investigators was the company’s failure to properly maintain critical equipment. Maintenance records revealed a lax approach to upkeep, with crucial components of the well being overlooked or inadequately serviced. It was determined that the crude oil buildup was a result of improper maintenance.

Furthermore, it was discovered that the company had disregarded industry-standard safety protocols, opting instead to cut corners to maximize production. Safety training for employees was minimal, and safety equipment was either outdated or improperly utilized.

Another alarming finding was the fact that the contractors on-site that day did not have proper permits to conduct work that involved possible sparks or fire. This including welding, grinding, cutting, or burning work. Hargraves Production was also cited for three OSHA violations, including “careless handling of hazardous materials.”

The Union Parish oil well explosion serves as a stark reminder of the importance of stringent regulation and oversight within the oil industry. While the pursuit of profit is undoubtedly a driving force for companies, it must not come at the expense of safety and environmental stewardship. The tragedy underscores the need for robust enforcement of safety standards and regular inspections to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

In response to the investigation’s findings, regulatory agencies have vowed to implement stricter oversight measures and increase penalties for non-compliance. Additionally, there have been calls for industry-wide reforms to prioritize safety and environmental responsibility.

What are Common Incidents and Injuries at Oil Well Sites?

Working in the oil and gas industry certainly has well-known hazards. That is why it is so important for the owners and operators of these facilities to follow safety standards, maintain their equipment, and provide adequate training. Oil well sites are inherently hazardous environments, and workers face a variety of risks on a daily basis.

Some common incidents and injuries at oil well sites include:

Explosions and Fires

Perhaps the most severe and catastrophic incidents, explosions and fires can occur due to factors such as equipment malfunction, gas leaks, or ignition sources. These incidents can result in loss of life, extensive property damage, and environmental pollution.


A blowout happens when pressure control systems fail, leading to an uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or drilling fluids from the well. Blowouts can cause serious injuries to workers, as well as environmental damage and loss of equipment.


Working at heights is often necessary at oil well sites, whether it’s on drilling rigs, derricks, or scaffolding. Falls from elevated surfaces can result in severe injuries or fatalities if proper fall protection measures are not in place.

Struck-By and Caught-In/Between Hazards

Heavy machinery, equipment, and materials are commonplace at oil well sites. Workers may be at risk of being struck by moving equipment or caught in/between machinery during operations, leading to serious injuries or fatalities.

Chemical Exposure

Oil and gas extraction involves the use of various chemicals, including drilling fluids, solvents, and corrosive substances. Exposure to these chemicals can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, and long-term health effects if proper safety precautions are not taken.

Equipment Malfunctions

Malfunctions of drilling equipment, pressure control systems, and other machinery can lead to accidents and injuries if not promptly identified and addressed. Lack of maintenance or faulty equipment can increase the likelihood of such incidents.

Vehicle Accidents

Transportation of personnel, equipment, and materials to and from oil well sites involves the use of trucks, trailers, and other vehicles. Vehicle accidents, including collisions and rollovers, can occur due to factors such as fatigue, distracted driving, or hazardous road conditions.

Overexertion and Musculoskeletal Injuries

The physical demands of working at oil well sites, such as lifting heavy objects, operating machinery, and performing repetitive tasks, can lead to overexertion and musculoskeletal injuries if proper ergonomic practices are not followed.

Heat Stress and Cold Stress

Working in extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can pose health risks to workers. Heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, while cold stress can result in hypothermia and frostbite if adequate measures are not taken to protect workers.

Confined Space Incidents

Maintenance and inspection activities often require workers to enter confined spaces such as tanks, vessels, or pipelines. Without proper ventilation and safety protocols, workers may be at risk of asphyxiation, exposure to toxic gases, or being trapped in confined spaces.

To mitigate these risks, oil companies must prioritize comprehensive safety training, implement strict safety protocols, provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), conduct regular inspections and maintenance of equipment, and foster a culture of safety among workers. Additionally, regulatory agencies play a crucial role in enforcing safety standards and holding companies accountable for maintaining safe working conditions at oil well sites.

What to Do after an Oil Well Explosion Injury

If you or a family member has been injured in an oil well explosion, it is crucial to take immediate action to ensure your safety and wellbeing. Here are the steps you can follow after an oil well explosion injury to begin protecting your legal rights and wellbeing:

Seek Medical Attention

The first priority is to get medical help for any injuries sustained during the explosion. Even if injuries seem minor, it is important to receive a thorough medical evaluation, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Call emergency services or have someone else call for assistance if you’re unable to do so yourself.

Report the Incident

Notify your employer or the appropriate authorities about the explosion and your injuries. This will ensure that the incident is documented and investigated properly. If the explosion occurred at a worksite, your employer should have procedures in place for reporting workplace injuries.

Preserve Evidence

If possible, try to preserve any evidence related to the explosion and your injuries. This may include taking photographs of the scene, documenting your injuries, and keeping any relevant medical records or reports. This evidence may be important if you decide to pursue legal action later on.

Notify Legal Representation

If you believe that the explosion and your injuries were the result of negligence or misconduct, consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in workplace accidents and oil industry-related injuries. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.

Document Expenses and Losses

Keep track of any medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial losses incurred as a result of the explosion and your injuries. This documentation will be important if you decide to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to seek compensation for your damages.

Cooperate with Investigations

If there are official investigations into the oil well explosion, cooperate fully with investigators and provide any information or testimony that may be relevant to the investigation. Your cooperation may help uncover the cause of the explosion and prevent similar incidents in the future.

By following these steps, you can take appropriate action to address your injuries, protect your rights, and seek the compensation you deserve after an oil well explosion injury.

Free Consultation with an Oil and Gas Injury Lawyer

If you and your family are suffering the aftermath of an oil well explosion, consulting with a skilled oil and gas injury lawyer can be extremely helpful. At Kherkher Garcia, our lawyers will help you explore the details of your incident and injuries, identify potential liability, explore your legal rights, and determine the best course of action for pursuing compensation.

Our team of oil and gas injury lawyers has more than 30 years of experience. We have represented clients in all manner of injury and loss due to negligence. Find out how we can help you by contacting us for a free consultation. Call us at 713-333-1030, or submit our online contact form to get started.


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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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