Although the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was horrific for platform workers, and those who lost loved ones, riggers on land are at an even greater risk, without much of a support system for them.
According to a recent drilling article in the Houston Chronicle, workers have no one to rely on for their safety or assistance in the event of an accident, not even the federal government. It’s a depressing commentary on the human condition when 60 oil rig workers die, one at a time, and it does not register as a warning flag. This observation came from no less that the former assistant regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
It’s not news that onshore oil fields are virtually the most dangerous places to work. This fact was revealed in 2007, at the beginning of the fracking boom, by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB), who revealed that 40 percent of the 663 riggers killed while working on rigs, died in Texas. 2012 was a bad year, featuring a ten-year high, with 65 deaths, 79 workers who had a limb amputated, 92 who sustained burns, 675 with broken bones and 82 crush deaths. These are grim statistics. Unfortunately, with the increased activity, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale patch, the problem will only get worse.
Furthermore, the CSHIB study showed the federal government has done nothing for 22-years with regard to putting safety procedures and standards in place for onshore gas and oil drilling. These findings did not let the OSHA off the hook for their lackluster rules and regulations pertaining to safety. They are only mandated to launch an investigation relating to accidents that kill a worker or that resulted in three or more employees being sent to hospital. There were 18,000 work-related injuries in the past 6-years, and only 150 were investigated.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but bears mentioning as a reminder of the lack of government involvement relating to safety in the oil industry in Texas, that when the OSHA conducted an investigation, safety infractions and violations were cited in 78 percent of them. It’s not too difficult to suspect that the accidents that were not investigated were also caused by safety violations.
Instead of getting better, it appears safety procedures and standards rank dead last with the government. Hundreds of Texas families would disagree with this approach. Hundreds more workplace accident lawyers also find fault with this hands off attitude.