Oil Field Safety Requires 'Proper Training, Strong Leadership'

Oil Field Safety Requires 'Proper Training, Strong Leadership'

By: Julia Deng
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Thousands put their lives at risk every day, working in the Permian Basin's petroleum industry.

Two oil field explosions shook West Texas this week less than 36 hours apart, killing four, injuring at least two and leaving hundreds questioning the safety of oil patch work.

"It's one of the most dangerous industries you could work in," said Diana Givens, Training Manager at Safety Solutions, LLC.

The Midland-based company provides safety services and products to clients in the petrochemical, wind energy and construction industries.

Givens said emphasizing "proper training" and "strong leadership" could minimize oil field risks.

"Nobody should lose their life - or a finger - while they're doing their job," she told NewsWest 9.

According to Givens, there isn't a specific job that presents enhanced risks and "every role in the oil field" is equally dangerous.

"The dangers that you see in one sector of the industry are really pretty similar to the dangers you're going to see in every sector of the industry," she said. "And unfortunately, human error does come into play."

In addition to human error, numerous factors including severe weather, poorly maintained equipment, technical glitches, ineffective teamwork and miscommunication could all play a role in causing oil field accidents.

Dave Edgemon, who works in drilling, told NewsWest 9, "It's all about leadership too. If somebody don't know the risks, he can't teach you the risks. And due to all the ignorance, somebody's going to lose a limb [or] lose a life."

A pulling unit explosion Tuesday morning killed three family members in Upton County. The youngest, Rojelio Salgado, was only 19. The other two victims were his wife's father and grandfather, Arturo Martinez Jr. and Arturo Martinez Sr.

The following day, an oil patch blast in Jal killed Rusty Harrison James and seriously injured Tyler Winter.

According to Lea County Sheriff's officials, the workers were "loading oil field materials into perforated pipe which was being installed into the drilling pipe" when the explosion occurred.

Givens said "basic training" for all workers should cover hydrogen sulfide safety, required monitoring, tool safety, hand-and-finger safety and use of safety equipment, such as escape gear.

"That's everybody's goal: to send everyone home at night the same way they came to work."