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Texas oil boom brings serious safety issues

The recent expansion of drilling and hydraulic fracturing for oil in the state of Texas has helped produce substantial numbers of new jobs for oilfield workers. While this is certainly great news for the workforce and the economy, the new boom has come at a price. Recently released statistics indicate that fatal oilfield accidents have been on the rise.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, starting in 2008 and continuing to 2012, 216 workers lost their lives while laboring in Texas oil patches. This number represents a 7.4 percent increase over the fatality rate tallied in Texas during the five year period prior to 2008.

Last year, in an effort to help minimize the risks found in potentially dangerous work environments, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought public opinion on how to improve the implementation of safety regulations.

Some safety proponents, along with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, advised employing stronger drilling site safety rules. However, Texas A&M University’s Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center director says the expansion of safety rules may not have that much of an effect in curtailing oilfield deaths. He drew this conclusion from data culled from industry incidents that occurred in 2012.

The center did find data suggesting that specific worker guidance in the form of training or other programs may have prevented a substantial number of work site fatalities in 2012.

Fracking and drilling will continue to expand at a pace for the foreseeable future. Both governmental entities and the oil companies are currently wrestling with how to best deal with safety issues which are an outgrowth of this expansion. As such, oilfield workers remain in a vulnerable position while working in a potentially hazardous environment.

If you or a member of your family ever get hurt while working in a Texas oilfield, you should consider contacting an attorney who has both knowledge of workers’ compensation laws and an understanding of the oil and gas business.

Source: dispatch.com, “As fracking grows, so does the number of oil-field worker deaths,” Lise Olsen, May 11, 2014

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