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MarketWatch: BP confirms two recent contractor fatalities in U.S.

By Jessica Resnick-Ault Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Last Update: 6:38 AM ET Nov 28, 2006

In yet another blemish to its accident-marred U.S. division, BP PLC (BP) Monday confirmed that two contract workers at its U.S. drilling operations died in on-the-job accidents in mid-November.

The first fatality occurred on the Alaskan North Slope on Nov. 13, when a worker walking across a drill pad apparently fell, striking his head, said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.

The second man died Nov. 17, after the drilling of a well in Eastern Oklahoma had been completed. That contract worker was helping to prepare the rig to be moved when he also sustained a fatal head-injury.

The two accidents, which haven’t been previously reported, follow a long chain of recent problems that include a major refinery explosion and a pair of major oil spills in Alaska.

“We’re still in the process of investigating two unrelated fatality incidents,” Chappell said, adding that the two accidents occurred thousands of miles apart. “Both of these incidents involved people suffering head injuries in the course of normal work activities,” Chappell said.

The company has come under fire from U.S. regulators in the past two years for a series of violations across its chain of U.S. operations.

The company’s Texas City, Texas refinery was the site of a major explosion in March, 2005, which killed 15 and injured over 170. The company came under additional regulatory heat when the same refinery had a fire the following summer.

Two of BP’s other four refineries in the continental U.S. have been fined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for having safety violations. The Anglo-American Oil Giant’s refinery near Toledo, Ohio was fined $2.4 million, while its Whiting, Indiana refinery has been fined $384,000 for a series of lesser violations.

The company’s U.S. refineries are currently the subject of a review led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III. Baker’s 11-person-commission is scheduled to give its 500-page report on Dec. 19.

The company’s exploration and production operations have also encountered their own problems. In March 2006, the company’s Alaskan pipeline had a major leak, which was followed by a second leak in August, leading to a partial shutdown of the company’s Prudhoe Bay production facility, the largest oilfield in the U.S.

The company is complying with regulators in investigations into the latest pair of fatalities, Chappell said. Although these incidents come on the heels of the company’s other woes, he suggested that they were unrelated industrial accidents occurring thousands of miles apart.

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