Oil layoffs continue, workers worry about impact on safety

Oil layoffs continue, workers worry about impact on safety

MIDLAND-ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Workers and industry analysts are voicing concerns about oilfield safety as the latest dip in crude prices results in continued layoffs.

West Texas oil patch workers who requested anonymity said they worried about companies operating equipment with understaffed teams, spending less money on protective gear and cutting safety-related positions.

"This is a big concern right now," Kenny Jordan, Executive Director of Houston-based Association for Energy Service Companies, said Monday in a phone interview. "Safety always needs to be a top priority."

Available data shows job cuts appear to be happening evenly across every sector of the energy industry, he added.

"If they have fewer drillers and smaller crews on rigs... then they don't need as many safety people [as they had prior to downsizing]," Jordan explained.

However, safety-related jobs are often among the first to be eliminated during periods of economic uncertainty, according to Midland-based oil analyst Morris Burns.

"There have been a lot of safety people that have lost their jobs during this downturn," he said. "Any position that doesn't... directly make money is the first to go."

It may be too early to draw conclusive links between oilfield layoffs and oil patch safety, analysts said.

The most recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics for work-related fatalities are from 2014; that summer marked the beginning of the current oil bust, according to industry experts.

"Times like this... may actually promote better safety," Jordan said. "The workers who are laid off are usually the less experienced ones, meaning you're left with a stronger team."

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