In 2014, Houston was ranked the second-best place to live in the world if you want to work in the oil and gas industry by the Oil & Gas Monitor. It is the home of the oil and gas industry in the United States, not only shipping oil and gas, but also manufacturing a large portion of the oil field equipment made in the U.S. The city was ranked the second most important city in the oil and gas industry in the world by arabianindustry.com, beating out cities in traditional oil and gas strongholds such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Scotland and Norway
The downside to Houston’s (and Texas’) prominence in the oil and gas industry is that the city and state see a disproportionate number of worker injuries and fatalities in oil and gas and related industries. Texas accounted for 40 percent of oil field fatalities between 2007 and 2012, according to a February 2014 Insurance Journal story about a Houston Chronicle report. In 2013, the state saw 50 out of 112 oil and gas deaths nationwide, the highest number.
Because Texas accounts for so much activity in the oil and gas industry, however, some say that in terms of percentages, Texas is much safer for oil field workers than the previously booming state of North Dakota. Because of the far greater number of workers – 10 times than North Dakota – Texas is actually three times safer for oil field workers.
Why Is The Oil And Gas Industry So Dangerous?
The Houston Chronicle story noted that since the fracking increase post-2007, injuries and deaths had spiked. The story blamed federal authorities who had failed to implement safety standards and procedures for onshore oil and gas drilling. A retired official from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) quoted in the story noted that offshore drilling was now much safer than onshore drilling because problems common in onshore drilling had been eliminated from offshore drilling.
At the time of the 2014 story, Texas had only 95 inspectors to oversee safety at all workplaces in the state, not just oil and gas sites. Very few of those 95 had any specific oil and gas industry experience, according to the report.
It is hard to regulate onshore oil and gas drilling sites because they are often mobile. Few oil field accidents are investigated, partly because it can be difficult to even find a worksite after an accident has been reported, according to industry observers. As oil prices have fallen in the past year, the industry has reduced both the number of workers and the amount of safety dollars it spends. Those workers who remain can be at greater risk.
Oil And Gas Accidents That Cause Death
According to OSHA, the most common types of accidents in the oil and gas industry that can result in death include:
- Vehicle accidents
- Struck-by/caught-in/caught-between equipment accidents
- Explosions and fires
- Accidents in confined spaces
- Chemical exposure
Transportation accidents accounted for the most deaths in the Texas oil and gas industry in 2013, the last year for which complete numbers are available. Fires/explosions and slips, trips and falls were the two next most common causes of death in oil and gas facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Will the decline in oil and gas prices result in a higher or lower percentage of fatal injuries over time? It remains to be seen.