According to the Houston Chronicle, oil field worker fatalities reached 545 in the U.S. between 2008 and 2012. Texas reported 216 of those deaths, the most reported by any other state. Other states reporting increases in fatal work accidents at land-drilling sites include North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.
Oil industry leaders and government officials have been debating whether to reform nationwide oil field safety regulations. The rise in oil field related fatalities highlights the apparent need for regulation updates.
Currently, drilling and fracking sites are not subject to the same rigorous safety processes as offshore drilling sites, refineries, chemical plants, and well-supply companies.
Among the problems possibly contributing to the rise in incidents, are the allowance of outdated and old equipment for drilling and a lack of programs and training regarding safety standards. Dr. M. Sam Mannan, director of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M University, suggests that these programs could have prevented the loss of dozens of lives at these work sites that were attributable to fires, poisonous gasses, or electrocution.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, one man who lost his son due to the use of old equipment at a drilling site in Texas “believes that improving OSHA’s federal inspections simply isn’t enough, especially since many drilling and well sites are isolated, the agency is understaffed and its safety rules are out-of-date.”
Advocates for oil field safety reform are also concerned about drug and alcohol use on the job. Families of accident victims hope that this issue, along with various others, will be addressed by regulators and legislators in the near future.