Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Drilling deaths by fire, explosion remain high; oil and gas industry says there is no safety problem

Oil and gas production employs less than 1 percent of U.S. workers, but over the past five years the industry has accounted for more than 10 percent of all workforce fatalities from fires and explosions, including at least 16 such deaths in 2014, Mike Soraghan reports for EnergyWire. The number of deaths was 13 in 2013 and 23 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The 16 deaths last year can't be accurately compared with the bureau figure because the agency uses its own methodology and keeps confidential the names and companies of the fatalities in its annual count," Soraghan writes. "The industry's high death rate shows the need for more regulation, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency charged with investigating industrial accidents."

"CSB has advocated a proposal at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to lift the drilling exemption from 'process safety management' (PSM) rules intended to prevent industrial explosions." Soraghan writes. The agency said that "High rates of worker injuries and fatalities within this sector suggest that PSM requirements are urgently needed."

Industry leaders say that safety is not a concern, Soraghan writes. The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's biggest lobbying group, wrote last year in an OSHA filing opposing the PSM change: "There is little performance data showing there is a safety problem at these facilities." (Read more)

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