Natural resource extraction has long been a vital part of the Texas economy. The work, though, is not without its hazards.
Oil drilling accidents pose real dangers to rig and well workers. Too often, these accidents prove fatal. In 2010, 49 Texas workers died in mining accidents, a category that includes oil and gas drilling. Nationwide, oil and gas extraction workers are eight times more likely to die in a work-related accident when compared with the average for all occupations.
Some of the more common accident causes include:
· Being struck by improperly secured pieces of an oil rig
· Being hit by shrapnel or debris when oil or gas comes up at high pressure
· Explosions, fires and well blow-outs
· Working on a well that has not been properly depressurized
· Using old rigs that don't have modern safety features
· Mistakes by inexperienced or poorly trained workers
· Poor equipment maintenance
The process known as hydraulic fracturing - also called "fracking" - is bringing new risks to the field. Last year, the Eagle Ford Shale fracking site was responsible for seven worker deaths, up from just three in 2010.
Industry Groups Working on Safety
The National Occupational Research Agenda, a government and industry safety group, is working with Texas extraction companies to help improve oil field safety. Together, they have formed an organization called the South Texas Exploration and Production Safety Network (STEPS).
The STEPS Network's goal is to change industry culture to put a better focus on safety. The group is focusing on both company leaders and field workers.
For example, companies are encouraged to have monthly meetings with representatives from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and to embrace regulators instead of looking at them as an impediment.
Workers are offered new safety trainings, some of which even ask workers to imagine what would happen if they are killed in an oil field accident. The thought is that confronting the possibility of death will make workers more cautious when they get out in the field.
Both OSHA and STEP Network leaders say they are seeing results, though hard data is not available. Hopefully, their renewed focus on worker safety will spread to the rest of the Texas extraction industry.
If you are a Texas oil field worker who has been injured while on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Contact an attorney experienced in oil field accident matters to discuss your legal options and help ensure your rights are protected.