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U.S. safety board urges new rules after fatal Oklahoma well blast


HOUSTON (Reuters) - An investigation into an explosion at an Oklahoma natural gas drilling rig that killed five workers last year faulted inadequate training and equipment and called for new regulations, the U.S. safety regulator said on Wednesday.

The Pryor Trust gas well in Pittsburgh County, Oklahoma was operated by Red Mountain Energy LLC and workers employed by Houston-based drilling contractor Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.

"The lack of effective safety management at this well resulted in a needless catastrophe," said Kristen Kulinowski, interim executive of the Chemical Safety Board.

The accident was the deadliest oil and gas drilling incident since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11.

Workers were not properly trained to monitor for natural gas leaks and had turned off an alarm that could have warned them, the CSB said. Equipment designed to shut gas or oil flow during an emergency also failed, likely because control hoses burned, the CSB said.

Drilling began "without needed planning, equipment, skills, or procedures," the board said.

Patterson-UTI "does not agree with all of the findings" but is reviewing them for "what additional policies, procedures and training could be implemented," a spokeswoman said. The company has reached settlements with the families of the workers killed at the site.

Red Mountain Energy could not be reached for comment. President Tony Say told the Tulsa World newspaper it operated "in accordance with standard industry practice" and said the CSB's findings "were inconsistent with the data we submitted."

The CSB has no regulatory or enforcement authority.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which develops safety standards for the oil industry, needs to make design changes to better protect workers in driller's cabins and create guidelines on alarm systems, the CSB said.

The API plans to review the CSB's report and consider its recommendations, Vice President Erik Milito said in a statement.

(Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston; editing by Gary McWilliams and Cynthia Osterman)

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