Injured Oil & Gas Workers: Texas Workers at Risk
According to a recent report in the Houston Chronicle, an analysis of data and public records regarding oil field accidents since the beginning of the oil and gas boom in 2007 shows a disturbing pattern, in which oil and gas companies employ shoddy practices and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fails to implement or enforce safety standards in the industry. As a result of this lack of oversight, nearly 40 percent of the 663 workers killed in oil field-related accidents between 2007 and 2012 were from Texas.
One of the most troubling aspects of the situation, according to the report, is that some companies will go to in order to convince officials that they have strong safety programs, while others won’t even try. The results are disastrous in any case. Just during 2012, their analysis found that workplace accidents had caused 675 oil and gas workers to suffer broken bones, while 79 of them lost limbs, 82 had been crushed, and 92 had suffered serious burns. The 65 fatalities suffered in 2012 were the highest in a decade, and they were nearly 60 percent more than in the year before.
The report noted that, while the federal government reacted swiftly to implement safety standards and procedures for offshore oil and gas drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, they have failed to do the same for onshore oil and gas drilling for 22 years. The effect has been to make offshore drilling safer than onshore drilling and fracking.
According to OSHA, they claim to be taking the spike in oil field fatalities seriously, and they plan to review the rules. But their hands may be tied somewhat. The agency only has 95 inspectors total available to look after every worksite in Texas, and only a handful of them have oil and gas-related training or experience. Also, the way the rules are set up, OSHA inspectors don’t have the power to shut down a drilling rig or well site, anyway, even if they discover life-threatening working conditions. Only the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) has that power, but it doesn’t coordinate with OSHA, in part because the TRC claims that it doesn’t count workplace safety as part of its mission.
There is also an inherent problem with the latest oil and gas boom, in that it’s very mobile. Sometimes, when OSHA receives a complaint about companies operating in one area, they go out to visit, and can’t find them, because they’ve moved the operation elsewhere.
Put simply, in 2007, onshore oil drilling sites were described by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board as among the country’s most dangerous workplaces, and there is little evidence that things have improved.
Obviously, there are many restraints on how much OSHA can do to alleviate safety problems at oil and gas fields, so without Congress or state authorities taking some action, the high injury and fatality rates will continue. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed while working at a drilling or fracking site, contact the Texas Oil & Gas Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm today.