Texas Oil Boom: More Money, More Worker Safety Problems

The oil boom in Texas has resulted in big money for drilling companies but big oilfield injuries for workers, according to a CBS News report. A new pipeline south of San Antonio and the prospect of earning up to $45 per hour are drawing people by the thousands to small towns across Southern Texas. CBS News reports the Eagle Ford Shale has the capacity to produce enough natural gas to power every household in the United States for at least five years and up to 12 billion barrels of oil.

While the money to be made for the energy companies and crew is substantial, the work remains dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatality rate for gas and oil workers in the U.S. is about seven times higher than the average for all other occupations.

Part of the blame lies with the oil and gas companies for not taking enough preventative action. Though death rates have dropped from a 2006 high of 32 deaths per 100,000 workers, experts say there is a general lack of care by companies when it comes to worker safety.

Concerns also exist that too little is being done by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the agency in charge of regulating the oil and gas industry. A 2009 report released by the U.S. Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee concluded that the punishments OSHA hands out are so insubstantial that they amount to no more than a slap on the wrist for violating companies.

One of the largest oil and gas drilling companies has been the biggest offender. According to reports, more than 20 people working for the company died on the job between 2002 and 2007. Other gas and oil companies had no more than five during that span.

OSHA fined the Texas-based company $432,000 for safety violations connected to the deaths, but the amount was reduced to $115,000 following negotiations with the company.

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers. If an injury or death occurs on the job, legal action may be an appropriate course of action. An advocate that specializes in personal injury in the oil and gas industry can be of assistance.