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Gardere Partner Celeste Yeager Wins Wyoming OSHA Case Related To Oilfield Safety
 
July 26, 2012 4:40 pm

DALLAS Celeste R. Yeager, a partner in the Dallas office of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, successfully represented an oil and gas client in overturning five citations issued by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to the death of an oilfield drilling rig crew member who was not required to wear flame resistant clothing (FRC).

Because of the danger of fire to oilfield workers, OSHA has encouraged employers to require all employees to wear FRC while on worksites. However, says Ms. Yeager, FRC only protects against flash fires that occur without warning and last only a short duration.

"Flash fires, while extremely dangerous, are rare if all other safety measures are adhered to. However, requiring oil and gas employees to wear FRC at all times is not the solution and introduces a number of additional risks to the worker, including increased potential for heat-induced illnesses such as heat stroke," says Ms. Yeager. "Injuries from fires are better prevented through engineering, mechanical, and administrative controls."

After the Wyoming drilling rig accident, OSHA issued citations to Ms. Yeager's client for alleged failure to assess the worksite for hazards, such as fires and drilling with oil based drilling mud, failure to require employees to wear FRC, and failure to properly maintain the equipment that ultimately resulted in the explosion and resulting fire. In a 53-page court opinion, the judge rescinded all citations against Ms. Yeager's client related to the employee's death.

"This was an extremely tragic accident, but the judge's opinion clearly states that the client properly maintained the rig and its components, properly assessed for hazards associated with drilling, including fires and flash fires, and therefore properly determined that FRC was not required during drilling rig operations," she says.

Ms. Yeager is a partner in Gardere's Labor and Employment Practice Group and chairs the Firm's Immigration and Naturalization Practice. She also is a member of Gardere's Energy Industry Team and Chemical and Refining Industry Team. Ms. Yeager is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and regularly represents employers nationally in all types of employment disputes, including class and collective actions before local, state, and federal administrative agencies and courts.

Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, an Am Law 200 firm founded in 1909 and one of the Southwest's largest full-service law firms, has offices in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Mexico City. Gardere provides legal services to private and public companies and individuals in areas of corporate, litigation, energy, tax, real estate, financial services, government affairs, hospitality, intellectual property, labor and employment, and environmental.

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