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Will Decrease in Oil Prices Reduce Work-related Deaths?

Will the decline in oil prices throughout the world affect Texas? Of course it will. Tax revenues will decrease, employment will decline and related businesses will be forced to scale back or shut their doors entirely. However, there may eventually be an upside to this decline in oil and gas revenue: a decrease in worksite and roadway accidents related to oil and gas.

According to CNN Money on January 29, 2015, there are 86 fewer oil and gas rigs operating in Texas than there were a year ago. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers are exposed to many dangers when employed in the oil and gas industry. Some of these hazards include:

  • Vehicle Collisions
  • Struck-By/ Caught-In/ Caught-Between
  • Explosions and Fires
  • Falls
  • Confined Spaces
  • Ergonomic Hazards
  • High Pressure Lines and Equipment
  • Electrical and Other Hazardous Energy
  • Machine Hazards
  • Planning and Prevention

These types of accidents are not limited to the oil and gas industry but can happen almost anywhere. However, some types of accidents injure and kill more oil and gas workers than those in other industries. For example, fires and explosions killed at least 16 oil and gas workers in 2014, according to Energy Wire. The oil and gas industry employs about one percent of the U.S. workforce, but experiences a disproportionate number of worker fatalities from fires and explosions. In the past five years, 10 percent of all worker deaths from fires and explosions occurred in the oil and gas industry. In 2014, two of these deaths occurred in Texas.

Only one other type of job had more fire and explosion deaths in 2013: the firefighting industry. Although this makes sense, the 2013 numbers about firefighters were far higher than normal because of several large scale disasters such as the Yarnell Hill wildfires in Arizona where 19 firefighters died.

Other types of fires and explosions in the industry occur on the roadways outside the fields where the gas and oil and extracted. According to Eagle Ford Shale, a tanker truck explosion killed five workers on January 15.

However, although there are fewer rigs operating in Texas currently than were producing a year ago, industry experts warn that seeing a huge reduction in production will not happen for a while because many companies have contracts that must be filled in the next three to six months. This means that the risk of fire and explosion and worker fatalities will not decline significantly for a while. And, as always in this industry, the long-term future is difficult to predict.

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