In early August 2018, an oilfield explosion in Midland County, Texas, highlighted the dangers of the oil and gas industry. The explosion claimed the life of one worker and injured several others, including two firefighters who were also on the scene at the time of the incident.
Recent Oil and Gas Activity
The accident happened in the Permian Basin region where oil and gas activity has increased in recent years. Unfortunately, the reporting of any catastrophes started fairly recently. Before 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only required employers to report on incidents in which 3 or more workers had been hospitalized. Post-2015, the rules changed and employers are now obligated to report any accident that ends in a hospitalization or loss of body part.
Texas Oilfield Statistics
According to E&E News, explosions and fires are the fourth most common cause of severe injuries on oilfield sites.
Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that around 120 deaths occur in the oil and gas industry every year. Along with these deaths, there are thousands of workers that suffer serious injuries.
Many of these unfortunate explosions and injuries are due to the negligence of the oil and gas companies. Every year the Texas Railroad Commission names thousands and thousands of violations within the oils and gas industry in Texas alone.
These violations often involve:
- Oilfield vehicles
Common Causes of Accidents
There are many things that could cause a serious oilfield accident including:
- Failing to implement safety standards
- Lack of safety signs posted
- Improper training or lack of training given to new employees
- Failing to replace faulty equipment on the job site
- Improper construction of rails, steps, etc.
- Hazardous fluids being improperly stored
- Cracks in storage units, pipes, or other containers that carry fluid
- Failure to cite violations
- Not supplying proper safety equipment such as goggles, helmets, tools, and suits
Alongside these common causes, there are also many environmental and work conditions that can contribute to an accident. For example, workers may be asked to work either indoors or outdoors, and in many different weather conditions, including during the hottest summer months.
Another thing that makes the jobs in this industry so challenging and dangerous are long shifts. Oilfield workers can work anywhere from 12 to 14 hours a day under rough weather and working conditions. These 12 to 14-hour shifts can last for several days at a time or even over several weeks.
Fatigue, exhaustion, or heat exhaustion can cause impaired judgments and make the worker more susceptible to injuries or accidents on the job.