Explosions in the drilling industry a big problem

As was underscored by Chevron's fatal explosion and resulting fire on Feb. 11 at a well in southwestern Pennsylvania, to which the company reacted by giving out free pizzas, states around the country have a big problem with oil and gas industry explosions. Many industry observers believe that companies are doing too little to prevent them and are reacting poorly when they do occur.

Despite concerted efforts by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board which recommended a number of actions to increase safety and reduce explosions, none of its recommendations have been implemented. Regulation of companies operating within the oil and gas industry remains lax and injuries and fatalities continue each year across the state and the nation.

Many of the drilling and fracking operations are located close to residential neighborhoods, posing a potential danger to residents in addition. The explosions often result in heavy tanks being tossed up to 750 feet away from the explosion site. In 2010, a Pennsylvania worker tried to thaw frozen pipes using a welding torch, a common practice in the industry. An explosion resulted, throwing him more than 75 feet away over a 7-foot barbed-wire fence, resulting in his death.

The oil and gas industry should not have more lax standards for worker safety than do other industries. The industry pours many millions of dollars into lobbying efforts to ensure the regulations remain loose for them regarding safety practices and fatal workplace accidents continue. One way families and injured workers have recourse is through workers' compensation. Injured workers and the families of those killed are able to file claims for a variety of benefits. While that may not make up for the lax safety practices of the industry, it at least can provide some help to those injured or to the families of those killed.

Source: WyoFile, "The drilling industry’s explosion problem", Mike Soraghan, October 21, 2014

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