Anthony “RG” Gonzales is a superintendent with Ref-Chem, an oil and gas support company. He and his crew were about to weld a piece of metal inside the Navitas Plant in West Texas when they smelled gas.

Test monitor alarms from Navitas and the Ref-Chem team confirmed there was a leak 3 to 4 feet away from where they were going to weld. The Navitas staff put a wet blanket on top of the leak and deemed it safe, but RG refused to let his six-member crew work under those conditions. He said, “No, it’s not good enough for me and I refuse to work until it is 100 percent safe!”

RG stopped the work and did not compromise his safety or that of his workers. “Safety is first,” he insisted.

This year, RG and four other workers were recognized by the Permian Basin Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network. The Permian Basin STEPS Network’s “Stop the Hurt” program is designed to empower employees to stop work if they see something unsafe, and twice a year for the past seven years, the network honors those who do just that. The top entry – RG, in this case − receives a prize of $1,000.

“You have to follow your gut,” he shared, and we in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration agree. The oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous in the United States, and the Permian Basin has long been the most important oil and gas producing area in the United States. The work men and women do there is hard and it can be dangerous. Programs like “Stop the Hurt” that aim to empower employees to sound off and stop work whenever they don’t feel safe will go a long way to save lives.

OSHA’s area office in Lubbock partners with the Permian Basin STEPS Network and other organizations to keep workers safe. Learn more about your rights as a worker here.