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Is Workplace Safety Being Hurt by Falling Oil Prices?

As oil prices decline, are producers cutting safety expenses? It may be too early to tell, but the death of three oil field workers last week in West Texas is troubling.

We already know that oil companies are paying less than they did a year ago. Contractors working in North Dakota’s Bakken oil shale fields receive at least 20 percent less than they did a few months ago. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), some federal safety officials believe that more than wages are being cut. They point to the increase in oilfield accidents that began to happen around the same time that oil prices began to decline.

The director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Bismark office observed, “With the drop in oil prices, companies may be looking to protect the profit margin by hiring contractors that are not experienced,” he said.

The director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Bismark office observed, “With the drop in oil prices, companies may be looking to protect the profit margin by hiring contractors that are not experienced,” he said.

However, some oil company executives say that the decline in oil prices might actually make the oil fields safer as companies focus on hiring only the most experienced operators. But the numbers don’t really support this assertion yet.

In the first five months of the government’s fiscal year 2015 (October-February), there have been 38 oil-field deaths in the U.S. This number does not include either motor vehicle accidents, which are around 50 percent of deaths in the oil industry. It also does not include the three workers who died last week in Texas. If the trend continues, there may be as many as 91 deaths at oil field worksites in this fiscal year.

The Houston law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner handles cases involving oil field injuries and fatalities throughout Texas. If were injured or lost a loved one as a result of an oil field accident, call 713-396-3964 to find out about your legal options.

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