Recent accidents in the oil field raises questions about oilfield safety

by Michael Stafford

NewsWest 9

An increasing number of oil field accidents across west Texas have raised the level of concern among safety officials.

The question is whether many of these new unskilled workers who are entering the oil industry, getting the proper training.

It's no secret that hundreds of service industry workers have left their old jobs to enter the more lucrative oil industry sometimes doubling their pay.

Safety official Danny Campbell of Lone Star USA Safety and Training says, "What it is you have an industry that's growing very rapidly and the oil industry is booming right now and anytime you end up with a situation where you've got a company that's booming like it is right now that experienced help is not out there'."

Campbell is also seeing the boom in his line of work.  The demand for oil field safety classes is at an all time high, because the government and OSHA require it.

Before an oil related company will hire you, each student must pass a week of classroom instruction and a written test covering everything from fire safety to hazardous materials.

But is that enough? And do some employers cut corners?

"I will tell you that almost all the oil companies that are out here including Lone Star Safety they're taking safety as a very strong issue.  It's something that's a very big concern with the companies, and they know that they've got inexperienced workers that are going out there," says Campbell.

Lately, across west Texas several workers have either been injured or killed near oil rigs and it's making many companies take a closer look at training issues.

Regardless of the increasing number of accidents lately, safety officials say the oil industry is much safer that it was 25 years ago, primarily because of tighter government and OSHA standards.

Safety officials say 90 percent of all accidents are avoidable, being caused by human error rather that mechanical failure.  Much of it boils down to common sense.

Unfortunately, because of the oil boom, the number of rig accidents will likely go up in the near future, rather than go down.