In 23 years as an electrician, the last nine of them with Noble, Kenny Nations had never been injured on the job. On February 26, 2006, as he made a routine visual observation on the silicone control rectifier bridge (SCR) system, Barge Engineer Nations had no reason to think this day on the Noble Leonard Jones would be any different.
The SCR is a key system on the Noble Leonard Jones, as it is on every Noble rig. “The primary function is to take current from the generators and convert it from AC to DC. DC runs all the major equipment on the rig. Without the SCR up and running, you can’t drill,” Nations says.
Nations and Mechanic James Farmer were in the small room where the SCR is located when a flashover, an unexpected electrical short resulting in an arc, occurred. The blast of intense heat burned Nations on the face and both hands, while Farmer received burns to the face and right hand.
“I fell on my knees and crawled out of the room,” Nations recalls. “I felt hot and disoriented. The coveralls were smoldering. When I pulled the coveralls down, I could see that I wasn’t burned under them. The fire retardant in the coveralls kept me from being burned from the waist up. If I had been wearing the old cotton coveralls, I would have been burned much worse.”
“ I am very thankful for those new fire-retardant coveralls and for my safety glasses and earplugs. The earplugs were charred when I pulled them out of my ears. The incident really made me think about how important our safety equipment is and how glad I am that I have training and knew what to do.”
Nations spent 12 days in the burn unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, receiving skin grafts for the third-degree burns on his hands. He is continuing the slow recovery process at his home in Brookhaven, Mississippi. “My recovery is going great, but it’s one day at a time. I have to be careful with the skin grafts and have a lot of restrictions on what kind of activities I can do. I’m a very active person and a workaholic and sitting around is not what I like to do,” he says.
Nations is now a very vocal advocate for wearing safety gear and for never working alone. The incident also was a lesson in anticipating the unforeseen, he says. “This makes me much more aware of the need to think ahead and always ask, ‘What if?’ Don’t take for granted that equipment is secure and safe to work on. I was checking for potential danger and what I did should have had no effect. What happened was unforeseen.”
Nations adds, “I would like to extend thanks to all of the people who have taken care of me and family during this time and who continue to be involved in my speedy recovery. I’d also like to thank my family and friends for being there for me, not just my personal family, but also my Noble family for stepping up to the plate and taking on extra workload in my absence.”
Photo Description: Fire-retardant coveralls prevented Kenny Nations from suffering burns to his torso during an electrical incident.