How many oilfield deaths must there before the industry does something to address the dangers of the work?
The latest fatality, unlike some of the other recent ones in North Dakota, took place in Texas. Jose Govea, a 33-year-old oilfield worker from El Campo, Texas, Wednesday fell 50 feet from a drilling rig to a steel floor, according to The Gonzales Inquirer. He was killed in the accident.
The Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident, which took place on an oil rig owned by EOG Resources. According to the local newspaper, the rig was on County Road 192 near Cheapside.
And that ain’t all.
That same story reported that on Thursday, Gonzales County EMS responders were called to another oil rig accident, when a worker fell off a derrick. That worker’s injuries, and condition, weren’t known.
Emergency crews were called to that site in the afternoon. That worker had regained consciousness by the time the responders arrived at the scene, but they had to go 25 feet up the rig to help the man, The Gonzales Inquirer reported.
It seems to me that the oil industry needs to take the same kinds of steps that another super-dangerous business, coal mining, has started to do. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the mining industry was kicking off a voluntary safety drive “to bring the number of on-the-job fatalities to zero.”
The program’s inauguration coincides with the second anniversary of a West Virgina tragedy where 29 coal miners were killed. According to The Journal, 29 mining companies with more than 100,000 employees plan to take part in the new safety program.
It has 20 steps, with the target of reducing deaths to zero and cutting injuries 50 percent by the end of 2015. There have been 10 deaths in mines so far this year, versus 37 total last year, The Journal reported.
The mining safety program entails additional training for managers, finding better ways to find and correct hazards at existing mines, establishing tighter engineering guidelines for new mines, and keeping a close eye on contractors to make sure they comply with more stringent safety standards, according to The Journal.
Whether the mining industry’s effort is mere window dressing, or a serious safety program, remains to be seen. But at least that industry is taking an initiative to reduce its on-the-job deaths.
The oil industry would do well to take a page out of that book, and make an industry-wide effort to stop deaths on its rigs.