Reducing Danger to Offshore Oil & Gas Workers
Drilling for oil is a dangerous career choice. The fatality rate for oil and gas extraction workers is 7 times higher than the national on-the-job average. With a 71% increase in the number of drilling rigs from 2003 to 2013, the industry is becoming more dangerous every year, with the annual death toll in Texas alone rising from 35 in 2003 to 45 in 2010. The annual rate of injuries illness, and fatalities was 18% in 2014—a 5% increase since 2011. The increase in deaths each year is causing regulators to take notice and make calls for changes in the industry.
One of the driving forces of the oil and gas industry for years has been its workers ability to retrieve gas and oil from any location, no matter how remote or dangerous, while maintaining a profit. Kurt Arnold, a maritime attorney with Arnold & Itkin LLP who represents injured offshore workers, explains:
"There is an attitude in the oil industry that time is money, and there is no time to waste when it comes to an oil extraction project. Even if it means sending workers into dangerous conditions with rough seas and high winds, the big oil companies will keep workers drilling on rigs and jack-ups 24 hours a day for as long as they possibly can."
This fact, combined with the continued use of older equipment and the use of improperly trained staff, continues to lead to the grisly injuries and deaths of workers in the oil and gas field.
Monthly Meetings with OSHA
Fearing continued casualties, the STEPS Network (South East Texas Exploration and Production Safety) has charged itself with attempting to reduce the high death rate in the oil and gas industry. Their main achievement since 2004 has been to get drilling companies to meet with members of the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) on a monthly basis.
While it's just a baby step, the hope is that monthly meetings like these will help drilling companies see their actions from the perspective of their employees. For example, a presentation at one recent meeting asked drilling company representatives to write a letter home to loved ones, imagining that they would be killed that day in a rig accident. The hope is that these exercises will emphasize the tragedy of avoidable worker deaths, and may lead to improved safety in the oil and gas industry.
Until that happens, however, there will continue to be tremendous danger associated with offshore drilling jobs.
Preventing the Leading Cause of Death
While cases like the Deepwater Horizon highlight the danger of drilling, the most common fatal event in oil and gas extraction is transportation. From 2003 to 2013, transportation was the cause of 40% of all oil and gas worker fatalities—more than any other type of workplace accident. Most fatalities involved land vehicles.
OSHA asserts that promoting worker safety has to start at the very top. High-level management has to be invested in the safety of workers, from enforcing seat belt use to utilizing the industry’s safest and most advanced equipment. Driver training programs, regular vehicle maintenance, and reward/incentive programs are all ways employers can promote worker safety.
As Houston offshore injury lawyers, we are often shocked at how preventable tragedy can be. With nearly half of all drilling worker deaths attributed to transportation accidents, simple road safety and driver training could dramatically lower the fatality rate across the industry. It could be as simple as rewarding good driving habits and disciplining dangerous drivers.
If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident while working offshore or for an offshore drilling company, there are specific laws that protect you. An experienced offshore injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin has the knowledge and resources necessary to take on big oil and gas companies and serve as an advocate for you.
Contact Arnold & Itkin today for a free and confidential consultation.